It wasn’t just the England U20’s team who returned from an international tournament with silverware last weekend; Chesterfield’s U14s did so too, after they won the Villareal Final Cup in Spain!
Speaking about their success, lead coach for the development phase, Matt Whitehouse said:
“It was a really special experience for the lads and it’s brilliant for them to go on these types of tournaments, to win it was fantastic!
“We came up against a mixture of local teams and teams from all over Europe, so it was a big tournament which featured different age groups.
“Villareal were probably the biggest team there as it was there tournament, but we also played CD Roda (Holland) in our group and also in the semi-finals, we dealt with the competition really well.
“For our lads it was like us versus everyone else! But it was a really positive experience where the lads did superbly.”
The two day tournament began with three group stage matches on Saturday, with Chesterfield beating two local teams 8-0 and 4-0 respectively before drawing with Roda 2-2.
Those results saw the team advance to the knockout stages held on Sunday, winning their quarter final 1-0, before defeating Roda by the same score line in the semi-final .
The Spireites defeated hosts Villareal 2-1 in the final thanks to goals from Will Russ and Ollie Papworth, ensuring that as well as lifting the trophy they finished the weekend unbeaten.
Whitehouse along with coaching staff Rob Bernthal, Ben Nicholson and physio Callum Walters were delighted with the entire squad’s efforts during the tournament in what were very warm conditions, with two players in particular catching the eye for a team that’s no stranger to success.
“We took three of the U13s across with us Jacob Barras, Nathan Moss and George Wilkinson,” he commented.
“Although Jacob didn’t get a goal he was fantastic across the weekend at right back and while all the lads did well and many of them scored goals Will Russ was also impressive - opposition defenders couldn’t deal with him!
“Last year we went to Dusseldorf with this group and they won that tournament, they also won the Pilgrim Cup and the Keith Alexander Cup so there’s a really strong team emerging with a winning mentality.”
The impressive victory caps off a very successful season for the academy and Whitehouse has challenged the team to repeat the feat next season.
He said: “They’ll have a few weeks off before they’re back in for pre-season, there’ll be a lot of hours of training during the six weeks holiday and that’ll really help us.
“What we’ve done this season has been really positive, our U16s won their regional league and we’re looking for our new U16s to do the same thing.
“As for the lads who’ve just won in Villareal we really want to see them push on, challenge the U16s and get to a higher level.
“We have some big games lined up against Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest and Derby County that will challenge the lads – one thing this group does when faced with a challenge is deliver, and it should be a really good year ahead.”
Academy manager Mark Smith also heaped praise on the team following their success on the Spanish east coast.
He added: “It’s excellent, I’ve spoken with Matt and he told me that the kids had done really well and that they really enjoyed it, which is the main thing and the reason why we try and enter them into tournaments.
“A lot of the time it’s to give the players new experiences of playing against different footballers and in different environments with a game at the end of it.
“To come away from such a prestigious tournament by winning it just shows what we’re trying to do here.”