Norman Whiteside with Alan Clarke, CEO STATSports SuperCupNI.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given the green light for his young Red Devils to line up another crack at the elusive Junior title at the STATSports SuperCupNI.
The Old Trafford boss knows the prestege surrounding Northern Ireland’s international youth football tournament. He opened the event more than a decade ago.
United’s support for the competition down the years is well documented with former boss Sir Alex Ferguson a fully committed backer of the event.
Solskjaer was impressed with the scale and quality of the competition when he visited back in 2008.
“The club has enjoyed a lot of success in the past and it has played a big part in developing players at a young age,” he said.
However, despite six titles from 12 appearances at Premier level, United have never won the Junior competition, making just a single decider back in 1994 when they lost 1-0 to Middlesbrough with a squad including current Linfield manager David Healy.
Over the years the United push was very much focused on Premier level but this will be the third successive tournament they have contested the Junior event.
“It’s always a huge honour to welcome our friends from Old Trafford,” says tournament publicity officer Jim Sandford. “They have a special attraction for so many people here and we always like to spot a potential star of the future!”
United will face some strong competition in the Junior competition with Rangers, Arsenal and Leeds United involved.
Plymouth Argyle, Charlton Atheltic and Wallsend Boys Club are also making the short trip from England. Wallsend have a connection with the event through president Peter Kirkley who for many years brought Newcastle United teams to Northern Ireland.
“Peter is a highly respected figure in English football and we have been privileged to count on him as a friend of the tournament for many years,” says Jim.
“He is certain that the Wallsend squad will benefit from their experience with us.”
The club, based in North Tyneside, was founded in 1904 by the employees and directors of Swan Hunters Shipyard in order to provide recreational activities for the apprentices and young people in the area and initially specialised in boxing.
Some of the North East’s best known players came through Wallsend including Alan Shearer, Michael Carrick, Steve Bruce and Lee Clark.
Plymouth Argyle are regulars at the event and Charlton Athletic are past Junior winners. In 2000 they defeated Manchester City.
The STATSports SuperCupNI begins on Sunday, 28th July, with the opening parade of teams and welcome ceremony in Coleraine and concludes with finals night at Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, 2nd August.