The SuperCupNI gets under way on Monday, 24 July, in Northern Ireland, and once again Argyle will be represented.
In this season’s competition, an Argyle side led by James Bradley will be in the Junior section, for players born on or after 1 January, 2009.
Beginning on Monday, 24 July, the Young Pilgrims will play Charlton Athletic, County Fermanagh and St Mirren, with results determining their opponents at future stages.
It is an intense period of football, with Argyle young squad living in a residental setting and experiencing tournament football, and decent-sized crowds, as the competition is always well supported by people in the local area.
Bradley, who assists Darren Way with the Argyle Under-18 side, is excited by the opportunity about to be afforded to this year’s tourists.
“We've had a great lead in to the tournament,” Bradley told Argyle TV. “We decided to get the players back in a little bit earlier than usual for pre-season to give them a good few sessions.
“We're all ready to go now. I know the players are very excited. For many of them, it would be their first tour. It would be the first time that they've been away with the club. There'll be a whole host of new experiences involved in that: being away from family, being in a really professional environment where they're expected to play five games in five days.
“In our games programme we often come up against the same opposition year in, year out. Some of our players have been at the academy from the age of seven or eight years old, so they're very used to playing the same opposition. This different opposition that we're going to face out there, with the styles and the tactics that they'll bring is going to be a great experience for the players and something they'll have to really stand up to.
“We've already spoken as a group of staff about how we manage that off-the-pitch time. They'll play for an hour and a half every day, but there's a lot of time in between. How do we stimulate them, how do we review what has happened previous, prepare them for the next game. All that time off the pitch will be just as valuable for the players as the five games on the pitch.”
The SuperCupNI can call on an extraordinary list of superstars who have taken part in the tournament. Manchester United have been represented by the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Marcus Rashford; World Cup winners Sergio Busquets and Mats Hummels represented Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively; and all-time Manchester United leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney played in the SuperCup when in Everton’s Academy.
Zak Baker, Jack Endacott, Oscar Halls and Will Jenkins Davies, a quartet recently graduated from Argyle’s under-18s to the first team, have all worn the green shirt in Northern Ireland in recent years, following players such as established first-teamers Michael Cooper and Adam Randell.
Bradley, a former Argyle youth player himself, has been to the competition as a player and as a coach, and hopes his experience can pay dividends.
“When I was 14, 15, so I had the experience as a player,” he said. “We took the under-18 group last year, which I went on and supported Darren [Way] with. It’s my first time leading the tournament, but I've also had those experiences as a player and coach as well.
“Fingers crossed, I can pass on some of that experience from many moons ago.
“The list [of alumni] is endless and full of quality. Part of the preparation has been for the players to go and do some research about the tournament, find out a little bit about the history. The players have been coming back in for every training session with a new name that has played out there.
“I think that builds the excitement even more for the players. They all want to aspire to go and play at the top level.”
Monday, 24 July – Charlton Athletic, The Warren, Portstewart, 3pm
Tuesday, 25 July – County Fermanagh, Chimney Corner, Antrim, 2pm
Wednesday, 26 July – St Mirren, Parker Avenue, Portrush, 3pm