The competition that has showcased the emerging talent of players like George Best, Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney was started way back in 1952. At the end of the war The FA had decided to organise a 'Youth Championship' for County Associations. That was considered to be the best way to stimulate the game among those youngsters who had recently left school and were not yet old enough to play senior football. Matches in the new competition didn't attract large crowds but outstanding players were selected for Youth Internationals and thousands of other boys were given the chance to play in a national contest for the first time. By 1951 it was realised that a competition for clubs would probably have a wider appeal. In the first season of 'The FA Youth Challenge Cup' (1952-53) entry was restricted to the youth teams of clubs, both professional and amateur, who were in direct membership with The FA. The Manchester United of Duncan Edwards (pictured) and the other 'Busby Babes' slaughtered non-League Nantwich 23-0 in the Second Round - still a record.
The competition as a whole got off to a great start, the two legs of the final pulling in 21,000 and 15,000 fans respectively. United went on to lift the trophy, defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers 9-3 on aggregate. Clubs like Blackpool, Chelsea, Sunderland and West Brom had been eliminated by the Third Round and little Huntley & Palmers FC, the Reading biscuit-makers, surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals.
Last season saw Ashton Athletic have their most successful season in the competition reaching the 1st round, only to lose 1-0 away to Sheffield, after overcoming Fleetwood Town Away 3-0 in the previous round, and brushing aside local rivals Ashton Town 5-0 and Warrington Town in the earlier rounds.
The draw for this seasons Competition will take place soon, so keep an eye out on the FA Web site for details.