AFC Rushden & Diamonds youngsters all set for a national final

AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ stars of tomorrow are gearing up for a big night this evening (Wednesday).

Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:51 am
AFC Rushden & Diamonds' Under-23 scholars are playing in a national final tonight (Wednesday)
AFC Rushden & Diamonds' Under-23 scholars are playing in a national final tonight (Wednesday)

In their first year of running an Under-23 Scholarship programme out of Moulton College, the club’s youngsters have reached the national final of the Under-23 National Youth Football League, the highest level outside of Academy football.

Having finished second in the South Premier Division, the young Diamonds have come through a play-off and beat Scarborough Football Scholarship 3-2 in the semi-finals.

They will now be taking on the Steven Gerrard Academy in the final at The Hawthorns, home of Sky Bet Championship club West Bromwich Albion, tonight (6.30pm kick-off).

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The programme has been headed up by Tim Dudding, who is the Head of Scholarship for Diamonds and Head of Football at Moulton College.

And while he is delighted with the way the team has performed this season, he insists his remit from the club is clear.

“With us being the level we’re at, it’s good we are even in the league and for us it is the full-time scholars at the club who are involved,” Dudding said.

“We were in group stages and then into the knockouts and we beat Scarborough 3-2 in the semi-finals and now we are in the national final.

“We are playing the Steven Gerrard Academy and we understand he will be there as well.

“Our sign of success is how many players we get in and around the first team and to make them available to (first-team manager) Andy Burgess and the local non-League scene, that’s the priority.

“But this is the first season we have run the Under-23 Scholarship with AFC Rushden & Diamonds and we finished second in the South Premier Division and we have got through to the final.

“To win it would be incredible and a mark of the players’ hard work.”