ESFA Internationals, featured

Welcome to the ESFA International Programme 2021/22


The ESFA is delighted to announce the start of the ESFA International Programme for 2021/22. The ESFA’s international programme is the pinnacle of what schools’ football has to offer, providing an unforgettable experience for the best Schoolgirls and Schoolboys in the country.

The ESFA boasts two international teams, the England U18 Schoolboys and the England U15 Schoolgirls, both of which are selected after undergoing a rigorous trials process, with the best players from around England playing for the honour of representing their country.

After a year with no international activity due to the pandemic, the ESFA is delighted to be bringing the programme back, and hope this year it will be bigger and better than ever. Below is a rundown of the international programme plans for the 2021/22 season and what’s to come for this season’s international squads and supporters…

Trials Process

The trial process for the England U15 Schoolgirls’ and England U18 Schoolboys’ starts with 4 regional Pro:Direct trials (North, Midlands, South East and South West). The players, who have been nominated by their County Schools’ FA to attend the Pro:Direct trials, will be tested through a set of drills and a competitive game against their fellow nominees. From this event, a squad will be selected to represent their region in stage two of the process. Stage two will see the South West play the South East and the North face off against the Midlands for a spot in the final Pro:Direct trial, forming a North and a South squad to attend. The conclusion of the process will see a squad’s worth of players selected to have the honour of wearing three lions on their shirt for the 2021/22 season for both the U15 Girls’ and U18 Boys’ teams.

Please see a list of Pro:Direct trial dates and venues below:

England U15 Schoolgirls- 

Sunday 10th October 2021- North Pro:Direct Trial– Cochrane Park, Newcastle  

Sunday 10th October 2021- South East Pro:Direct Trial– Rectory Park, Middlesex 

Sunday 10th October 2021- South West Pro:Direct Trial– Millfield School 

Sunday 14th November- North v Midlands– Lilleshall National Sports Centre 

Sunday 14th November- South East v South West– Rectory Park, Middlesex 

Sunday 12th December- Final Pro:Direct Trial– Lilleshall National Sports Centre

England U18 Schoolboys: 

Saturday 23rd October 2021- Midlands Pro:Direct Trial– Lilleshall National Sports Centre 

Sunday 24th October 2021- North Pro:Direct Trial– Cochrane Park, Newcastle 

Sunday 7th November 2021- South East Pro:Direct Trial– Rectory Park, Middlesex 

Sunday 7th November 2021- South West Pro:Direct Trial– Fry’s Club,  Bristol 

Sunday 21st November 2021- South East v South West– Rectory Park, Middlesex  

Sunday 28th November 2021- North vs Midlands– Lilleshall National Sports Centre 

Sunday 19th December 2021- Final Pro:Direct Trial– Lilleshall National Sports Centre 

The final squad will be announced via ESFA social media channels on Monday 13 December (Girls) and Monday 20 December (Boys). Updates on all international activity will be shared via the ESFA’s social channels (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) – just search @SchoolsFootball to follow the ESFA accounts and stay up to date with all events and activity! 

Kit Launch

Following a brand new partnership with Pro:Direct for the 20/21 season, the ESFA will be sharing a special Kit Launch in December, via social media platforms and website, just before the final squads are announced.

The new Pro:Direct partnership will see the ESFA players decked out in Nike kit with a Pro:Direct badge on the sleeve, the ESFA’s 3 lions on the chest and the Energy High5 logo from ESFA partners and front of shirt sponsors, Utilita. Keep an eye on the ESFA’s social channels w/c 6 December for the first reveal!

Kit collection, Opening Fixtures and Training Camps

The England U15 Schoolgirls’ campaign kicks off on Sunday 9th January, where they are expecting to play their first friendly fixture against the ISFA U15 Girls’ squad. This weekend will also host the girls’ kit presentation where the players will receive their kits ahead of their debut match. The ESFA’s 19/20 squad last played ISFA back in January 2020 at Charterhouse School with the match ending in a 2-2 draw.

The England U18 Schoolboys’ are due to play their first fixture of the season against the RAF on Saturday 29th January. The squad will also be presented with their international shirts, a proud moment for all involved. This fixture is a repeat of the U18 schoolboys first fixture in 2020 where the squad came away 4-1 victors!

The squads will then take part in some Preparatory Training Camps over February half term, preparing them for the forthcoming competitive fixtures at the end of the season. More details on training camps will be confirmed during the season.

Centenary Shield and Bob Docherty Cup

The Centenary Shield and Bob Docherty Cup competitions are the centrepiece of the international season for the two squads, with all the build-up and preparation leading to these competitive tournaments.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic these tournaments had to be cancelled in 2020 so the ESFA is delighted to be able to welcome the competitions back again this season. The England U18 Schoolboys will compete in the Centenary Shield first hosted in 1973, against the other home nations, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. The trophy is won by the team with the most points at the end of a round robin format, where each nation plays each other over a 6 week period. The ESFA will be hosting two home fixtures this season, keep an eye out for more details on these matches coming soon.

The Bob Docherty Cup, first contested in 2002 is a 3 day tournament for the U15 Girls, hosted by one of the five home nations each year. This year, the prestigious tournament will take place in England in early April. Full details on how you can support the team competing for the ESFA’s 3rd Bob Docherty title will be released in the coming weeks.

More details of both of these competitions will be announced as the season progresses so, stay up to date with ESFA social media channels (@schoolsfootball) and continue to check out for further information throughout the season.

ESFA Internationals, featured

England U15 Schoolgirls fall just short of a comeback against their Scottish counterparts

A tough afternoon in the sun drenched north east as England’s 2019/20 Under 15 schoolgirls came up just short of snatching a draw in their final international fixture against Scotland. 

With a large crowd in attendance at Cochrane Park, both teams came out looking to attack and, despite a lack of clear chances in the opening exchanges, there was absolutely no doubt about the commitment from both teams with the feisty challenges that we expect from a match between these two great rivals, at any level of football.

That is not to say that there were no moments of quality. A delectable exchange between Rebecca Ferguson and Megan Sofield for the hosts, almost saw the latter through on goal. Ferguson also missed an opportunity to break the deadlock when a loose clearance from Scotland keeper, Ava Easdon fell at her feet 30 yards from goal – but her attempted lob cleared the bar.

Easdon smothered the ball at the feet of Delphi Cole, as the winger looked through on goal but the visitors also looked dangerous going forward. They broke the deadlock on 18 minutes when a surging run down the right from Eilidh Austin saw her cross for Olivia Potter, who smashed it home from 6 yards out.

This marked a period of pressure from Scotland, who could have added to their lead. However, they were grateful to their skipper, Kirsty MacLean who blocked a shot from Tori Almond, after an exchange of passes with Elle Elkins – just inside the visitor’s box – looked to have created an opening.

Almond’s looping overhead shot was the final chance of the first 40 minutes for the hosts, but her effort fell just wide of the post and Scotland went in with a deserved 1-0 half time lead.

It didn’t take long for Scotland to double their advantage at the start of the second half. Just two minutes had elapsed when Mikayla Wildgoose was adjudged to have fouled Emma Watson as she looked to create some space for shot in the box, and it was Watson herself who converted the spot kick for a 2-0 lead.

England now had a mountain to climb against a tough Scotland defence, Ferguson’s free-kick just avoided all attacking players in the box with Annalisa McCann collecting amongst a mass of white shirts. At the other end, Sophia Poor made a brave save at the feet of Sophia Martin to deny the striker a chance.

England Captain, Wildgoose made amends for her role in the penalty with a double goal line clearance, denying Niamh Noble and then Tiree Burchill after Sophia Poor was left stranded outside her box. Just moments later, Georgia Gray saw her shot from just inside the box whistle past Poor’s far post.

Scotland’s tails were up and they certainly looked in control, but the hosts grabbed a lifeline when Lucy Cooper was adjudged to have been fouled by Madilyn Wilson. Poppy Pritchard cooly slotted home to half the arrears with just over 10 minutes to go.

Pritchard was then denied by McCann after a fantastic through ball from Ferguson and moments later, a cross from Elkins found Sofield who got a shot away but narrowly wide of the far post.

McCann denied Pritchard again before the England number 9 missed a golden chance to level the game, when a cross from Elkins found her unmarked at the back post. However, she put her shot agonisingly wide with the goal at her mercy.

The final chance for England fell to Sofield, who saw her free-kick from the edge of the box sail just over the crossbar, leaving the Scottish players celebrating a deserved victory on the day, albeit after a frantic last 15 minutes from England.

Credit to both sides for a truly entertaining game of football, the parents and schools of the girls on show can be rightly proud of their achievements and the cap presentations that followed the game marked the end of this extended international programme for the girls – we certainly look forward to seeing their progress as footballers and young women in years to come.

A big thank you to ESFA photographer, Garry Griffiths from 353 photography for capturing the game and writing this report. A gallery from the game will be available shortly.