There was silverware at One Call Stadium this week as Mansfield Town’s U18s were crowned champions of the Football League Youth Alliance after a 2-0 victory over Grimsby Town on Saturday.
Goals by defender Kieran Harrison and striker Zayn Hakeem clinched the title for John Dempster’s youngsters and first team boss Adam Murray said he now had to weigh up whether any were ready to blood in the first team in Saturday’s final game at home to Cambridge United.
“We will have the youth team there this weekend,” said Murray. “To achieve what they have done this season has been phenomenal.
“To come back into the league and to win it in the first outing was superb, considering everything was rushed over last summer and the recruitment was a last minute thing after we got the go-ahead from the Football League.
“We were all at the trials last summer to try to get the best players we possibly could. We went through all our contacts, then we handed it over to John Dempster and the team who have all made it happen this season.
“It’s a massive milestone for the football club. To be able to do that after the length of time the club has been out of it in their first season is incredible.
“I have been involved in the trials for the next group of 15/16-year-olds coming in for next season and they are strong again. So the future really is bright.”
On giving any youngsters first team experience this weekend, he said: “We are going to be down at Brooksby (College) this week and having chats with the youth team staff and having a look who we think could handle the step-up.
“As well as they have done, it is a huge step-up. Without having a reserve team this year they have been limited to what men’s football they could get. “What we don’t want to do is throw them in and kill them before they’ve got going.
“It will be a calculated view on what we do and how we do it. At the end of the day, even though we can only move a couple of places either way in the league, we still want to win the match.
“So we won’t be throwing it away just to get kids in the team.
“We’ll do what we feel is best for the three points and what we feel is best building into next season for lads we feel might have a chance.”