FOR many a season I have had the pleasure of accompanying the Argyle under-15 squad to Northern Ireland to take part in the old Milk Cup and now the Statsports Northern Ireland SuperCup.
During that time, I have been able to praise the young players and their coaching staff on their exemplary behaviour but it has also been recognised by the Football Association and the participating referees.
Argyle club secretary Zac Newton received an email from Fred Carter who is the Player Status Officer (GBE) at the Football Association.
It read as follows: "Please see below some great comments relating to the youth team who have been out in the SuperCup this week. I think it was worth highlighting to show the good work being done by the Club.
“Great to hear this kind of professionalism and enthusiasm is taking place and long may it continue."
The following email was from Farai Hallam, The Football Association's Senior Referee Officer and read as follows:
"Not too sure if you’re in constant communication with anyone from Argyle, but in case you are, if you could forward on the below, that would be appreciated.
“I was at the Northern Ireland Super Cup fixture between Argyle and Dundee United, where the refereeing team was from our English FA Centre of Refereeing Excellence. Not often do you leave a game with it stuck in your mind how professional, engaging and overall sense of exemplary behaviour from two clubs.
“The coaches from Argyle, who I didn’t get chance to speak to personally, were superb with our young referees in listening to what we, as The FA, do to help them develop, as well as offering some useful thoughts from a club’s point of view.
“Definitely left a good mark with the English guys and I’m sure the Northern Irish guys and girls will echo that too. Hopefully your first team’s on-field performance matches the example set over in Coleraine!"
In this day and age of the 'Respect Campaign' this is certainly a lesson in how clubs and their staff can work hand in hand with the referees, who do have a difficult task and cannot be expected to get every decision spot on.
Academy Manager Phil Stokes was in charge of the party accompanied by coaches Lee Britchford, Chris Harrison, Lead Sports Therapist Abner Bruzzichessi and Lead Sports Scientist Alex Booth, plus 18 young players with ages ranging from 12-15.
Stokes issued the following statement re the SuperCup: "I'd like to take the opportunity of thanking all the staff for their hard work. Whilst it was a different outcome to last year there were important lessons learnt for players and staff – it’s a valuable learning tool and it demonstrates the importance of attending the Northern Ireland SuperCup.
“Following a really positive start it was a disappointing end to a very long week result wise - a few things went against us. After conceding early goals, we were chasing games, which takes a lot out of the players physically. The Arsenal result seemed to affect the lads mentally as well - the disappointment of not getting in to the top four and knowing that on another day if it could be a very different game.
“Nonetheless, the players had three extremely tough group games and worked tirelessly. Five games against sides they wouldn’t normally play which means they would have learnt a great deal. We all like to win games, and especially at the SuperCup in Tournament football, but for me it's important that the players learn from the experience and work even harder to improve this season.
“Last year was the first time we had won a trophy and six years ago we finished in the top four. The calibre and standard of team at the tournament tests our young players - a number of individuals end up playing at the highest level.”
Argyle Youth Reporter