Seaham Red Star Under-18s coach Andy Heywood was proud of his side as they finished their last year together by winning the Durham County FA Under-18s League.
Having been undefeated for the entire season, they slipped up at home to Sunderland side Lambton Street in their last game. But Heywood was still happy considering the many obstacles they had to overcome this season.
He said: “Our season was massively disrupted by the Durham County representative team and the Durham County Schools representative teams.
“When you look back and look at how many demands were made of the players, including the county games, we didn’t have one training session this year. Not one.”
Heavily backed to win the league this season, Red Star topped the table from a very early stage, and never looked like letting go of top spot.
“We were a bit like Chelsea this season in the fact we were top of the league from an early stage and we never really surrendered that too much. Even when we weren’t top it was only because we hadn’t played as many games,” Heywood explained.
The success of the Under-18s has capped off a successful year for Red Star, with the senior side promoted to Division One of the Northern League for the first time since 2002.
Heywood said: “It was good to match the senior side. In some respects, because the senior side was so successful, there were limited opportunities for some of our lads to progress to the senior side this year, but it was good to put Seaham Red Star on the map.”
Heywood and fellow coach Steve Hall took over the side when the side were aged between seven and 10, and have watched them progressed as they have grown older.
“One thing that stood out for me was when the recent Durham County Under-18s team played the Northern Area final down in West Yorkshire,” Heywood said.
“Out of the 10 outfield players, seven of them were Seaham Red Star players, and it was then when you realise just how successful this team was.”
Heywood and Hall’s junior project to take the team from under-16s to under-18s has seen them win two out of the four trophies available over the two seasons, and make an appearance at Bury’s JD Stadium in an FA Youth Cup tie.
But lifting the league title has signalled the end of the road for the side. “It was always a two-year project, never beyond that,” Heywood said. “I think me and Steve always thought two years was enough. We wanted to get them from little lads to young men playing the right way with the right ethos, and I think we did that.”
Heywood revealed that three of his side are going to the USA to study on soccer scholarships, while many of them will be going to Northern League and Wearside League clubs.
Some of the side who will stay at under-18 level though, and the club are still looking to place players in Northern League and Wearside League clubs going into next season.