Walton-le-Dale Arts College and High School’s futsal team is about to undergo a makeover to become known as Blackburn Rovers after winning the Sky Bet Championship club’s Boys Futsal Cup.
The Ewood Park side played host to the tournament at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre as a feeder competition to unearth a talented secondary school team to don the blue and white halves in the Kinder + Sport Futsal Cup. The competition is a new Football League Trust initiative which takes place in the new year over a series of local, regional and national finals.
The South Ribble school saw off tough competition in the final against Pleckgate High School, having earlier got out of a group stage that also included Our Lady and St John Catholic College and Westholme School - all based in Blackburn.
They scored two goals in the last 90 seconds of the final to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory, which means that they will now return to the BRIC on Friday 22nd January to take on the schools representing local rivals such as Preston North End and Bolton Wanderers.
Chris McGrail, the former PNE reserve team centre forward and now head of futsal at the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, explained that an exciting journey awaits for the Walton-le-Dale players. He said:
"We were delighted with the standard of futsal on show because it's a new sport for most of these schools, and they adapted to the style and rules very quickly.
"Futsal is a technical sport that is designed to compliment and improve the standards we see in full 11-a-side football fixtures, so it looks set to grow into something huge in this country over the next few years as there are so many young teams out there starting to play it.
"The Pleckgate side that Walton-le-Dale beat in the final were very technically gifted and were all year ten players, so we know that they will be a real force to be reckoned with in next year's competition.
"To have beaten them is a testimony to the way they stuck to their task and refused to believe that they were beaten, even with the clock ticking against them. It's a small-sided five-a-side game where the match can turn in an instant, so our final was a perfect testimony to that.
"They've got just over a month now to train hard and do their best to represent Blackburn Rovers with pride in all the local derbies that we'll be hosting here in late January, with the aim of then taking on the best teams in the north at the regional finals after that."
This year's national finals will be played later in the 2015/16 season, with the prestigious Olympic Park facility at the Copper Box being touted as a likely venue.
Any players - male or female - who are in their final year at secondary school and are keen to play futsal as part of an educational programme are welcome to apply for Blackburn Rovers Community Trust's BTEC Diploma in sport and futsal, which welcomes its next intake in Autumn 2016. For full details, please visit www.brfctrust.co.uk