Benton Park High School have become the first Leeds secondary school in over 20 years to reach the final of the English Schools Football Cup.
They won through by beating prestigious sports school Millfield from Somerset 2-1 after extra-time in the semi-final with a squad that contains a number of the younger Guiseley AFC Academy members.
“To reach the final of any national cup is a great achievement and we could not believe it has been so long for a Leeds school to achieve this and, in a way, that makes it even more satisfying,” said Guiseley AFC’s Head of Youth Development David Currie.
“The squad includes seven players who have came through Benton Park, four of whom are still in Year 11, whilst others were recruited to join the Academy. To represent their school, Guiseley AFC and the city of Leeds in the final will be a proud moment for them all.”
Benton Park provides education for the Academy’s players while the club allows them a chance to play in the Conference Youth Alliance and the FA Youth Cup.
Benton Park’s Head of Sixth Form Andy Feeney believes the partnership will only grow stronger and was delighted to see the players show great character after conceding a penalty late on to take the game to extra-time.
“To beat Millfield in the fashion they did showed real determination and character,” he added. “It doesn’t happen often for a school in Leeds so we are going to enjoy the moment and I am sure the players will do us all proud.”
Elsewhere in the Guiseley AFC youth setup, the academy team will travel to face Kidderminster Harriers in the semi-final of the Football Conference Youth Alliance Cup, which involves the best non-league clubs throughout England in addition to a number of clubs from the professional game.
Feeney continued: “Our relationship with Guiseley AFC enables talented footballers, many who have just missed out on entering professional football at 16, the opportunity to train each day and compete at the highest level possible whilst completing their sixth form education.
“It gives them the best of both worlds with some players from the Academy moving into professional football such as Ben Whitfield and Jacob Brown who have joined AFC Bournemouth and Barnsley respectively. Others who may fall short from that level are able to gain a sound education, move onto university and employment and some will continue to play non-league level at Guiseley AFC and other clubs in the region.”