The FA Youth Cup Preliminary Round takes place this week with a team selected from the Cheshunt Youth teams visiting The Arena Brentwood FC on Wednesday 6th September. The winners will be rewarded with a place in the First Qualifying Round away to Hertfordshire rivals Hemel Hempstead.
Since coming into being in the 1952/53 season, The FA Youth Cup has mirrored the importance of its parent competition, becoming the most desirable trophy among all under-18 sides across the country, retaining that premier position throughout all the seismic changes that youth football has undergone over the last half a century and more.
In terms of its organisation, it shares many similarities with The FA Cup itself, not least in allowing non-league clubs an opportunity to put their youth sides into the qualifying stages of the competition. And yet had it evolved as it initially seemed it might, that would not have happened, for the concept of a youth cup competition initially came from Sir Joe Richards, who initially proposed it within the Football League structure.
The idea was not especially well received but, undeterred, Richards took his brainchild to The Football Association and they had the foresight to realise that here was an idea with legs.
In fact, The FA had already instituted a similar competition just after the end of the war, though this was a Youth Championship based on County Associations, as this had been the way in which many youngsters had tended to come to the fore before hostilities broke out. But as football became increasingly organised at club level and as professional clubs were running more and more teams down the age groups, it made greater sense to create a competition run on club lines.
Such a competition needed a trophy and, in keeping with the idiosyncratic way in which it had come into being, the silverware did not come from the most conventional source either. Again, it began life within the remit of the Football League, the trophy having been purchased by them during the war, though they had yet to find any use for it. On discovering it in a cupboard, gathering dust, it was handed over to the FA for their new youth competition.
It’s well worth a read if only to discover just how many of the footballing superstars of today & time gone by have appeared in the FA Youth Cup.