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Norton aces make their mark

Grassroots | Published:

A Staffordshire school has shown that size isn’t everything, by reaching the last 16 of the U13 English Schools FA Cup and the semi-finals of the County Cup, writes Bradley Rice.

Norton Canes High, near Cannock, who only have 450 pupils in the entire school, played Whitworth in Rochdale last Thursday in the English Schools Cup.

Norton lost 6-2 but PE teacher, Ian Oliphant, is proud of his year eight’s efforts.

“Normally we don’t have enough students to field a football team,” he said. “This year’s success has been incredible.”

The under-13s were up against a very strong team in Whitworth and the boys put in a creditable performance.

“Whitworth were losing finalists last year and the final is the only game they have lost in two years. We were 3-0 down in the first 10 minutes, we could have folded there and then, but we didn’t. We went in 3-2 at half-time, credit to the boys for battling back.”

Norton now turn their attention to the game against Trentham Academy in the semi-finals of the County Cup.

Oliphant hopes his year eight team can take the positives from the cup defeat.

“We will treat the Whitworth game as a learning curve,” he said. “We now look forward to the Trentham game. We are hoping to play on Chasetown’s pitch and make a big event of it.”

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The school’s cup success can partly be attributed to its involvement with Martin O’Connor’s football academy. (MOCEFA). The former Walsall and Birmingham midfielder’s academy has been running out of Norton Canes for two years and Oliphant has noticed a change in the school’s attitude towards sport.

“There’s a real buzz about the place, a sporting ethos now permeates through the school,” he said. “It’s a great asset to have someone of Martin’s stature linked to the school.”

Oliphant continued: “It’s inspiring for the boys to see lads walking about in MOCEFA tracksuits. They see them as role models and aspire to be like them.”

A further inspiration for Norton’s pupils is former student Ryan Woods, who now plays for Stoke City in the Championship. Woods recently returned to his old school as guest of honour to present the trophies at an awards evening.

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