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For the second time in three years we will be looking at a new league with our weekly review of under-18 football. Up until the end of the 2016/17 season we covered the Youth Alliance League before moving up to the Professional Development League. This season we are a Category 1 academy and, as such, we will be taking a weekly look at the U18 Premier League.

Unfortunately things will be somewhat different this season. For the first time in many years I personally won’t be able to get to Gawthorpe for the games because of the current situation and, as such, there will be no message board goal updates on the day and no match reports. We will publish as much as we can along with these weekly reports.

The U18 Premier League has been increased to 26 teams this season, two up from 2019/20. Besides ourselves, both Crystal Palace and Leeds have joined the league while Swansea have dropped out and have moved back into the Professional Development League as a Category 2 club.

It is geographically split into two leagues of 13 clubs with West Brom having, this season, moved from north to south. We won’t be ignoring the south but we will rightly be concentrating more on the north league as our youth team take on the might of the big North West clubs over the season along with the short trip to play Blackburn.

No one was more delighted than I was as the goal news came through last Saturday when we played our first game in the new league at Stoke. What a good day it was with two goals from defender Jake Rooney giving us a 2-0 half time lead before Joe McGlynn (pictured) extended the lead in the second half.

Stoke did pull one back but it ended 3-1 and this for a team that still haven’t had the opportunity to train together as a squad. Did I say that no one was more delighted than I was? I think coach Tony Philliskirk might have been. “I am really pleased and proud,” he said. “If someone told me we were going to Stoke and would win 3-1 and see the game out in the professional manner we did, I’d have taken that.”

Elsewhere, there were wins in the north for Derby, Everton, Manchester City and Middlesbrough. The latter two both won by three clear goals; City saw off Wolves at home 4-1 while Middlesbrough won 3-1 at new boys Leeds.

I suspect Manchester City might be the ones to watch again this season. They won this league in 2019/20 and they are a team we’ve played twice in recent games. They beat us by just one goal in the FA Youth Cup just before last season was brought to an abrupt end and repeated that in a recent friendly. Sunderland, meanwhile, continued their wretched run with defeat at Derby. They played 16 games last season and lost the lot but a revamp of their academy is suggesting better things this season.

Arsenal, Aston Villa, Norwich and Tottenham all won in the south while Brighton and Chelsea, whose first teams met last night, fought out the only draw on the opening weekend.

This weekend will see us play our first home game in the league against Wolves. Currently all home games will be played at the LFA County Ground at Leyland but they are strictly behind closed doors.

The League Tables and our Fixtures and Results are now set up within U23/U18 Stats for the coming season.

All the first weekend results and the coming week’s fixtures are below.

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS

North

Saturday 12th September
Derby 2 Sunderland 0
Everton 2 Blackburn 1
Leeds 0 Middlesbrough 3
Manchester City 4 Wolves 1
Stoke 1 Burnley 3

South

Saturday 12th September
Arsenal 4 Southampton 2
Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1
Brighton 1 Chelsea 1
Norwich 5 West Brom 1
West Ham 1 Tottenham 4

THIS WEEK’S FIXTURES

North

Saturday 19th September
Burnley v Wolves
Liverpool v Stoke
Manchester City v Everton
Manchester United v Blackburn
Middlesbrough v Derby
Newcastle v Leeds

South

Friday 18th September
Fulham v Brighton

Saturday 19th September
Chelsea v West Ham
Norwich v Aston Villa
Reading v West Brom
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Tottenham v Arsenal

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