Mansfield Town duo Jack Evans and Joe Riley helped to inspire primary students to Trophy success yesterday [Thursday 5th March] as they visited over fifty youngsters participating in this seasons ‘John Radford Trophy’.
The Stags pair stayed behind after training at the clubs’ RH Academy complex to visit youngsters representing six primary schools, who were participating in the first of three qualifying groups in this seasons competition.
Open to youngsters in School years four and five, the competition invites schools to put together teams made up of boys and girls, giving opportunity to those who don’t always play regularly within a team to compete for the Trophy, currently held by three times winners Samuel Barlow Primary.
The Stags duo signed autographs for the participants and also provided words of encouragement to each team prior to kick-off.
21-Year-Old Swansea City loanee Jack Evans said “Watching all of the boys and girls running around, playing football and enjoying themselves is brilliant to see, it’s good to get everyone involved at such a great facility where they can not only be active but make friends.
“Being able to see people like myself and Joe [Riley] who play for the club and play in a tournament in the chairman’s name means the world to the kids and gives those who aren’t as confident playing that extra lift.”
Defender Riley, who arrived from Plymouth in January, added “We wanted to come and support the schools and the students this afternoon, it’s a great trophy that has been set up here and we wanted to pass on our support and give the young supporters a boost ahead of playing in the tournament, the reaction to it is brilliant to see.”
Buoyed by the duos support, the tournament was extremely competitive with Croft Primary and Holly Primary the two teams who will progress to fight for the Trophy in the final later in the month, the two schools drew 1-1 in the opening match before going onto win all of their remaining fixtures – Croft the overall winners with a goal difference of +18 to Hollys +12.
Scott Hardy, PE Provider at Croft Primary, said “It’s a brilliant opportunity for the kids to play football against other schools and build their confidence with their friends, a lot of them [at Croft] play in separate teams socially so for them to be able to come together as a school is brilliant.
“Seeing the Stags players gave them a huge boost, when they see their idols, their role models come down they get to see where playing football and working as a team can take them as they get older”
Ashley McIlwaine, Year 5/6 Teacher at Holly Primary said “I think this competition is great the boys love getting out and playing against other schools in such a competitive environment. I’m really pleased with the team spirit and the way they bonded, that was fantastic, as was their attitude and sportsmanship throughout.
“It’s nice to see the players come and get involved too, they’re role models to a lot of the boys who are Stags fans, some of them were a little star struck but it’s a great motivation for them, knowing their heroes are watching them play etc.”
Gary Shaw, Community Manager, added “Many congratulations to Croft and Holly who made it through, and commiserations to the other participating schools who put in maximum effort to make it a really competitive tournament today.
“Next week we will see more schools, including holders Samuel Barlow, compete – with two qualifying groups run simultaneously due to school availability. One team will progress from each which will leave us with a final four schools, as always, to compete for the Trophy.
“I’d like to also thank Joe Riley and Jack Evans for attending today, they really helped to lift the kids spirits and get them motivated to play – knowing the people you idolise as a young fan is a massive confidence boost and that was certainly reflected in the football played.”