Gloucester City Youth’s long-serving manager Kenny Blackburn is out to ensure his team bury the bitter memory of their 2014-15 near-miss when they take on Warmley Rangers for this year’s GFA Youth Shield showdown.
City convincingly brushed aside the challenge of Somerset Floodlit Youth League counterparts Bitton in the semi-finals thanks to Ashley Bird’s brace and Harrison Iddles, Will Tunnicliff and Ollie Barnes efforts, to see them safely to Oaklands Park on Tuesday, March 28 (19:00) via a 5-1 romp.
It was the second time in three seasons the Young Tigers talented crop of under-18 starlets had reached the last hurdle of the county competition, one they’re hoping to overcome this time after Yate Town edged a 3-2 penalty shoot-out win following a hard-fought 2-2 draw in the 2014-15 final.
The Tigers’ latest Oaklands appearance comes on the back of a successful season, in which they reached the first round proper of the FA Youth Cup.
They’ve also been riding high again in second spot in the Midland Floodlit Youth League’s Southern Division with all to play for over the next few weeks, as they strive to secure a third straight title success in the section following 2014-15 and 2015-16 triumphs.
This season represents Blackburn’s and Neil Mustoe’s third together at the helm of the Young Tigers, although Blackburn has been boss for far longer than that, 16 years to be precise.
His faithful cohort Mustoe, 40, is a vastly experienced former professional who began his career at Manchester United where he went on to win an FA Youth Cup, as they beat Tottenham Hotspur in a mid-nineties final at which Blackburn was a spectator!
Gloucester-born midfielder and one-time England Youth international Mustoe went on to make 364 appearances for his home town Gloucester club at adult level, where he led them as captain to their current National League North status in 2009 with a Southern League play-off success.
Blackburn too is a former professional who enjoyed FA Youth Cup outings himself, with Cheltenham Town, before going on to score a winner on his debut for Brighton against Shrewsbury Town at Football League level.
He too turned out for Gloucester City, as well as Cinderford Town, before focusing his mind on providing a pathway for young players to progress through City’s youth system, something he holds close to his heart today having overseen their founder membership of the Midland Junior Premier League in 2003 when five teams, from under-12s to under-16s, enthusiastically set out.
Of today’s challenges in the Floodlit League competition, Blackburn explained: “Our current team is made up entirely of players from in and around Gloucester.
“Most will be playing in their first county cup final and they are really looking forward to it.
“Some of them will hopefully be finishing their youth development on a high note before going on to progress into adult football.”
Kick-off in tonight’s cup final will be 19:00 at Oaklands Park (BS32 4AG), admission is £3 for adults and free of charge for children and concessions.
Please note that there will be no sale of alcohol in the ground however other light refreshments are available to purchase.