Holders Manchester United hope to strike gold in the Dale Farm Milk Cup.
The Premier champioins begin the defence of their title on Monday against tournament newcomers, Australia’s Gold Coast Academy, at Coleraine Showgrounds (8pm) with a few familiar faces to help them on their way.
Several of the United squad are returning so the fans who turn out to support the little Red Devils will be familiar with names such as Axel Tuanzebe, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Tyler Reid, Charlie Scott, Marcus Rashford and Demetri Mitchell.
The travelling party includes trialists Oscar Borg and Ogo Obi while the youngest member of the group, Callum Gribbin, impressed in the second half of a recent friendly at Trafford FC.
If Ogo looks familiar, its because he was last year’s golden boot winner at the Junior tounament with Watford.
After watching him at the Milk Cup, United made overtures to the teenager who is rated as one of the best players for his age in England. Watford have been desperate for him to agree professional terms and offered scholarship terms with a three-year deal attached.
Obi, though, is yet to decide where his long-term future lies and has readily accepted the chance to link up with United, after Watford agreed to let him train with the Red Devils. Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have also expressed an interest in Obi, but United are in pole position.
United coach Paul mcGuinness is keen to see how the young man fares in the higher level and is expected to introduce him in some if nmot all of the games. United also face CountyArmagh and CSKA Moscow in qualifying.
United lifted the trophy for the fifth time in 2013 following a late 1-0 success over County Tyrone with six of those involved again this time around appearing in the final when Oliver McBurnie headed the winner in injury time at Ballymena Showgrounds.
McGuinness says: “It’s a really enjoyable week where the lads come in as first-years and get a real taste for what it’s like to be a Manchester United player, competing in front of crowds.
Meanwhile, one of Moscow’s leading youth academies, Chertanovo debut with a game against French side Vendee at Broughshane. Tournament secretary Jim Weir says: “We have heard great reports about the Russians and they could be a threat to Manchester United.”
CSKA Moscow are also back, while Espanyol and Benfica are big names likely to attract the fans.
“We really have an exciting international line up in the Premier competition,” adds Jim. “Japan, Mexico, Sierra Leone and the USA, while Zambia’s Lusaka Academy have a pedigree in international tournaments.
“Teams from their Academy have excelled at the prestigious Gothia U-18 Cup in Sweden and in fact won the Dana Cup in Denmark on Saturday.”
Brentford’s decision to enter both Premier and Junior competitions this time is testament to importance they now place on the Dale Farm Milk Cup as a learning curve for players. Several of the squad who won the Junior title a couple of years back are in the Premier panel.