Town Scoop The Crown at St George's Park
Rugby Town FC's Academy squad returned as champions from the FA's national football centre last week, after scooping the Premier League VAR tournament trophy at St George's Park.
It was a case of third time lucky for Academy boss Liam O'Neill's charges, after Valley had reached the semi-finals in the equivalent competition a year ago and then had lost in the final there in January, with the success coming only just over twelve months on from the launch of the academy programme at Butlin Road.
The tournaments are organised by PGMOL - the group responsible for match officials across the professional game - and are primarily used to help prepare referees for new law changes and other new initiatives.
Town's triumph came after they had topped a tough group which included three National League clubs and League Two side Carlisle United, before navigating successfully past two further National League outfits - Havant & Waterlooville and Aldershot - in the Quarter Final and Semi Final respectively.
This set-up a final against local rivals the Strachan Foundation - whom Valley had already beaten in the group stage - and goals from Kyle Tott and Mad Semahimbo secured Town the crown.
There was individual glory for both of the scorers too, with Tott named Player of the Tournament in addition to the Top Goalscorer award, whilst Semahimbo's strike in that final earned him the Goal of the Tournament nomination.
O'Neill was understandably delighted with the efforts of his squad. He said: "We had come close to winning this tournament on two previous attempts and the calibre of opposition was even greater this time too.
"It was a relentless schedule of eight games over three days, so to remain unbeaten against these types of established academies and ultimately lift the trophy was an exceptional achievement.
"The lads just got stronger and stronger and their levels of fitness were outstanding.
"We have had several opposition coaches message their congratulations for the style in which we played - which is very important to me, as it's great to win but it's also important to do it in a certain way."
Town's Academy side will return for pre-season full-time at the beginning of August, and will represent the club in a number of national academy/college leagues, the midland floodlit youth league and the FA Youth Cup over the forthcoming campaign.