Chesterfield’s U9 and U10 sides will be in action in Belgium this weekend, as they travel to play in an annual invitational tournament organised by Belgian Third Division side FCV Dender.
The Spireites, who are just one of a host of teams invited to play in the tournament, will be bringing a successful season to a close on Sunday.
The competition will feature 23 teams, including Chesterfield, providing a valuable experience for the young players heading to Belgium.
The academy has arranged trips to tournaments like this before, with the U12s previously playing in Germany. Coach Darren Molloy hopes the youngsters can adapt to whatever challenges they are presented with this weekend. He said: “The tournament football - especially these invitational ones - are very much fast and furious, all out to win a game.
“For our boys, it is a case of whether they can they adapt and deal with that intensity. We then see if they can get hold of the ball and put their style of football on. I think our boys are more than capable, as they've shown in previous tournaments they’ve been to.”
There are potential clashes with some big European names, with the likes of Feyenoord and Anderlecht also taking part. A game against a foreign youth side has the potential to be a fantastic experience, but the aim is to qualify for the afternoon fixtures on the day.
“The afternoon’s games, if you can qualify, are actually inside the stadium, which has a 9,800 capacity," said Molloy. "It’ll be another great experience to play in another stadium in a different country with the boys. That’ll be the aim to try and get into the afternoon’s fixtures.”
If the young Spireites were to get the chance to play inside the stadium, it would be a second successive week where they will have enjoyed such an honour, after the U8-U12 teams took on Burton Albion at the Proact Stadium last Sunday.
Molloy reflected on the previous weekend’s events, saying: “It’s always a fun day, to be honest. You get the kids into the home dressing room and they’ve all got their own seat and they feel like professional footballers.”
The Chesterfield academy have already enjoyed success this season, with the U11s winning the Mayo Cup in Ireland in March. The U10s, meanwhile, finished as runners-up at the same competition. Reflecting on the 2016/17 campaign, Molloy commented: “I think the season’s been the best footballing season from the academy across every age group that we’ve had.
“Obviously we’re three or four years into the project and now you’re seeing that it does take time, as we all knew at the very start. Now you’re starting to see the fruit of it with the players in the first team and these invitational tournaments that we’re getting involved in."