Salford City Under-18s finished the 2020-21 campaign in eighth in the EFL Youth Alliance North West Division.
In an ironic twist of fate the final game saw the 2019-20 Champions effectively hand over their title to this year’s winners Fleetwood Town. The young Cod Army secured top spot the previous week, and celebrated with a 4-1 win at Highbury before lifting the trophy.
Cian Hayes scored a brace with Shaun Sithole also on the scoresheet before Tom Shepherd pulled a goal back for Salford. That sparked some embers of a late fightback, but Fleetwood rode the waves and Danny Edwards ended their voyage with a goal in injury time.
A very different campaign to last season’s title-winning debut and one that has required a great deal of adaptation, but there has been plenty to learn for Luke Morgan and his side.
“It was always going to be a difficult game; Fleetwood had won the league the last week, they had their tails up, on their home pitch and at 3-0 down you fear the worst. But it was a good reaction to bring it back to 3-1, we had a couple of chances and a penalty that wasn’t given that could have made it 3-2 and you never know what’s going to happen.
“They scored again with virtually the last kick of the game to put a big of gloss on it, but all credit to Fleetwood, the set up’s brilliant, the staff are brilliant, they’ve got some really good players and it was fully deserved so congratulations to them.
“It’s been a really, really difficult one this season for a number of reasons, up until January we were doing okay then after that we’ve had some of the lads training with the Under-23s regularly which for them is brilliant, and you start putting more emphasis on the first years.
“That’s been a massive experience for them and I think over the summer they’ll realise that more. Some of them have done a full season, missing one or two games in the league and it’s a lot of game time for a first year in this league.
“But I think all the lads have done really, really well this season with everything that’s been thrown at them, the challenges that Covid has thrown at them and a couple of other things that have happened so well done to them all.”
END OF AN ERA
The end of the season does bring with it difficult decisions and we have to say goodbye to some of the second years.
This current crop were the first batch of Under-17s in the Club’s Football League days, and a number of them played a part in winning the EFL Youth Alliance NW title in 2019-20 at the first attempt. Then this year there was still history made as the Under-18s reached the FA Youth Cup Third Round for the first time, losing commendably to Manchester United at The Peninsula Stadium.
So it is with sadness, and of course our best wishes, that we say goodbye to Diego Ghaly, Dan Jones, Phil Perry, Tom Shepherd, Jaden Timmis and Max Williams, and thank you all for the contributions that you have made in your time at the Club.
“I’ve been through a lot with them lads and its never nice when you’ve got to say bye to some of them,” added Luke.
“You want to fight for them all, you want as many as possible to stay that extra year, but I’m sure none of these lads will have a problem getting another Club and if we can help them, we’ll help them, if not then we’ll definitely support them.
“For the second years it’s been a tough year, but they’ve dealt with it well so from me a thank you.”
Congratulations are in order for Ben Rydel and Anton Smith who were both offered their first professional contracts at the Club.
As for the Under-17s who will become next year’s Under-18s, enjoy the summer and see you next season.
Thanks also to the Academy staff and interns for their work this season:
“Like I said it’s been a difficult one with the changes in the summer and we’ve lost some absolutely brilliant people who for me, I learned a lot off. But the staff who have come in this year, I can’t fault them.
“It’s important we all use this break to recharge and plan for next season. As a team we want to keep improving and moving forwards, to do that we need all players and staff giving their all from day one in pre season.
“I have no doubt with the team we already have plus our new scholars and staff we will have an exciting 2021-22 season!”