IT’LL BE a baptism of fire for Buxton FC’s young guns on Tuesday evening (July 26) when the club’s newly re-formed under-19 side takes to the Silverlands pitch for the first time in a prestige friendly against last season’s FA Youth Cup finalists Sheffield United.
Aside from two outings in a pre-season tournament in Rossington, this will be the first chance for local football fans to catch a glimpse of the squad of 20 players - hailing from across the High Peak and Derbyshire - which will play in Division Three of the Baris North Midlands Under-19s Football League during the 2011/12 season.
Officially christened as Buxton FC Bluestar U19s, the team has been formed through a partnership between Buxton FC and Tideswell United FC. In May, 60 young lads attended trials at Tideswell, when Buxton’s first-team manager John Reed assisted new under-19 manager David Bradbury in whittling them down to a final playing squad of 20.
Buxton and Tideswell both share M Markovitz Ltd as their main sponsor, and the builders merchants’ managing director Dave Hopkins, who is also a director of the Bucks, is helping co-ordinate the under-19 team. He said: “The Sheffield United game (kick-off 7.30pm at the Silverlands on July 26) will be very difficult, but we have picked tough friendlies on purpose, to push the lads probably harder than they will be in the league games. It is an opportunity for the lads to enjoy a taste of football at a higher level.
“We have a good relationship with their (Sheffield United) academy and they will send a strong side, as we want our players to be tested and they will obviously be setting out to win the game. The pedigree there is unquestionable - they reached the final of the FA Youth Cup only to lose to Manchester United.
“I would encourage everyone to come along to the Silverlands on July 26 and support our local lads in what promises to be a great opener to the season. And who knows, maybe fans will find themselves getting a first look at some of the young stars of the future.”
As well as using the academy as a way of bringing through new local talent, the professional set-up will also aim to educate the players both on and off the field. Training in particular will focus on key skills such as passing and ball retention, something Hopkins believes will produce some attractive football for watching fans.
“It shows that Buxton FC is much broader than just a first team, but is also about developing local talent,” he continued. “We aim to keep these lads in football and help them develop both on and off the pitch. It will also increase their aspirations, and hopefully we can produce one or two first-teamers for John (Reed).”
Following the Sheffield United Academy match, Buxton U19s will travel to face Rowsley on Sunday July 31 (kick-off 2pm), before entertaining Sheffield Wednesday’s Academy on Friday August 19 (kick-off 7pm) and then Ilkeston FC U19s on Wednesday August 24 (kick-off 7pm), with both of these matches being played at Pursglove. Their pre-season campaign concludes on Tuesday August 30 at the Silverlands (kick-off 7.30pm) against Matlock Town U19s.
In addition, Buxton FC boss Reed has stated his intention to blood some of the youngsters in his senior side for the forthcoming High Peak Cup competition; the semi-final will be away to Chapel Town on Thursday July 28 (kick-off 7pm).
Buxton U19s will be one of seven teams competing in Division Three of the North Midlands league, the others being: Lidworth, Carlton Town, FM Dinnington, Dinnington Town, Dunkirk and Maltby Main.
Beside the 12 league fixtures - which will be played midweek - there is a mini cup involving matches against teams in Division One and Division Two, and the League Cup, the draw for which has already been made.
In the first round, to be played in mid-September, Buxton have been drawn at home to Worksop Town.
If successful, the young Bucks will meet local rivals Matlock Town, with this tie scheduled for mid-October. There is also an intention to enter next year’s FA Youth Cup.
Matches throughout the season will be played at the Silverlands and also at Tideswell’s Pursglove ground. Admission to the league games will be £4 for adults and £2 for concessions.
Dave Hopkins said: “Seeing how our players have progressed in training and during the two friendlies, we are confident we can pitch a team that will be competitive and will be able to hold its own in the league.
“We want to win and we want to have some medals at the end of the season.”
U19s manager David Bradbury added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for my players to play football at a high level and provides a step to the Buxton first team for those who excel during their time with us.
“I have been delighted with the standard and attitude of all my new squad members.
“Their professional approach in their first two games against semi-pro men’s teams, when we took the lads to Rossington for the weekend, was most encouraging.”
* Admission to the Sheffield United Academy match at the Silverlands on July 26 will be £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.
* Alongside M Markovitz Ltd, the new Buxton FC Bluestar U19s academy side has received the backing of several other local companies including Lomas Distribution, the University of Derby and Tarmac Buxton Lime and Cement.