Youth team coach Mark Trueman says his team have made history after FC Halifax Town won the National League u19 Alliance.
It is the first time the club have won the league since reforming in 2008, while the youth team also reached the second round proper of the FA Youth Cup this season.
The team sealed the title with a 2-1 win at Gateshead, who have won the league for the previous three years, on Wednesday with goals from Marko Basic and James Sunderland.
Trueman said: “It was a good feeling. I don’t think we’ve overachieved because they’ve got a lot of ability. But they’ve dug in in games. When we’ve been 1-0 down or 2-0 down, they’ve shown desire and commitment to get back into the game.
“It’s the first time we’ve won the league since the new club was formed, and we’ve gone further than before in the Youth Cup, so the lads have made history.
“Hopefully with the right recruitment next season we can just keep getting better and better.
“I want to say a big thank you to the coaching team, Calderdale College for the partnership we have with them, and our sponsors RSA, because thanks to their funding we’ve been able to pay for equipment.
“We’ve finished third in the last two years so we’ve been there or thereabouts, but we planned on winning the league this season - that was always our goal. The Youth Cup run gave us so much confidence for the league.
“It was a tough challenge. There’s some very good teams in the league such as Gateshead, Fylde, Guiseley and Preston - they reached the semi-finals of the Youth Cup and use some of those players in their under 19 team.”
Trueman is delighted with his team’s season, but insists developing players for the first-team remains a higher priority than silverware.
“It’s been a successful season, and I’ve been so happy with how the lads have done,” he said. “They’ve worked hard in training and performed well in games.
“The programme Steve Nichol has put in place has really helped, and so has the partnership with Calderdale College.
“We’re based there and the facilities are brilliant. Everything is in place for us. “Winning the league and doing so well in the Youth Cup highlights how well the programme is running.
“But in the long run, getting players into the first team is the main thing - winning the league is a bonus.
“With the programme the way it is and how we have developed players, I’m sure some players will come through and get their chance in the first team. There are a lot of talented players in the team and with the right structure in place and pathway for them to follow, some of them will get a chance.
“Isaac Baldwin, Elliot Harrison, Shiraz Khan and Ross Barrows have all been out on loan at different stages and all done really well, so hopefully more of the team can follow in their footsteps.”
Town boss Billy Heath said: “It’s a great achievement. We’ve got some exciting players in the youth team and it’s great for Steve Nichol, the players and everybody concerned. They’ve done a really good job.”
Asked whether some players from that team were good enough to progress to the first team, Heath replied: “With time. We know it’s a massive jump from under 19s to Conference North football, but there’s a lot of potential there.”
Town now go into the National Cup as one of eight regional league winners. They find out their opponents in mid-April, with the first game to take place on the last Wednesday in April.
“The goal now is to get as far as we can in that and hopefully win it,” added Trueman.
The youth team have two games remaining - against Guiseley at Rothwell on Wednesday and away to Hyde - and Trueman is hoping the team will be able to parade the league trophy at half-time in an upcoming first-team game at the Shay.
The youth team will be holding an open trial at Calderdale College between 6pm and 8pm on May 8 for any players interested in joining the club for next season.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.