Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says the importance of the Dale Farm Milk Cup in the development of young players at Anfield cannot be underestimated.
The County Antrim man has again agreed to send a team to contest the Junior event at the international youth football tournament in Northern Ireland this summer.
It is a major boost for organisers who are held in the highest esteem by Rodgers. The Carnlough native not only played in the event for Ballymena United three years in succession more than two decades ago but has also been involved in the draw in Belfast on several occasions.
“I believe in what the organisers are doing not only in terms of the sport and the extremely high calibre of teams they attract but also from the massive success story as far as selling Northern Ireland across the world,” says Rodgers.
“The Dale Farm Milk Cup is an internationally recognised brand that appeals to all ages and all nationalities.
“It is something that engenders terrific pride in people both at home and no matter where you travel across the globe. Anyone who has been to the tournament remembers it fondly.”
He added: “In terms of what we are striving to achieve with young players at Anfield, the competition cannot be underestimated. It gives players the challenge of tournament football in a stimulating environment and at the highest level.”
Liverpool won the Premier title in 1988 defeating Motherwell in the decider. In 2013 they reached the semi-finals of the Premier competition only to lose to County Antrim. Last year the Juniors lost their Globe semi-final to Southampton.
And Southampton will again be represented when the competition kicks off on Monday, July 27 across venues from Ballymena to Londonderry, Limavady to Ballymoney and around Coleraine and the North Coast.
The St. Mary’s based club reached the Globe final last year, losing to Brentford who are also returning this year.
“We have had a fantastic response from all around the world,” says Dale Farm Milk Cup chairman Victor Leonard.
“This is our 33rd year and to be honest we were well over subscribed when it came to applications from teams wanting to take part.
“Thanks to people like Brendan Rogers and representatives from teams who have competed in the past, our reputation worldwide is something we are proud of as it presents Northern Ireland in such a positive light.”
In addition to 2012 champions Brentford, Swindon Town, Plymouth Argyle and Sheffield United are all returning in the Junior competition.
Meanwhile, Irish outfit Dundalk, who have been visitors since the inception of the Milk Cup back in the early eighties, will continue their long association Former Republic of Ireland international and manager Steve Staunton turned out for them 30 years ago.
The Dale Farm Milk Cup begins with the traditional parade of competing teams through Coleraine on Sunday, July 26, concluding with finals night at Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, July 31.
In addition to title sponsors Dale Farm, Northern Ireland’s largest dairy company, the Dale Farm Milk Cup is supported by the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Tourism Northern Ireland and DCAL, with BBC Sport NI as broadcast partners.