Alder Grange School are set to assume the identity of Blackburn Rovers... and hopefully earn themselves the chance to play at Wembley!
The girls from years seven and eight at the Rawtenstall school will be pulling on the famous Rovers jersey as our representatives in this season's EFL Girls' Cup, after they saw off the challenge of 20 other school teams in a fiercely competitive qualifying tournament at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre for the right to take part in the national tournament.
Their finals day record of four wins and a draw saw them pip last season's representatives St Augustine's RC High School from Billington in the dying seconds, with a last minute equaliser securing their place when the top two in the group met in a winner-takes-all showpiece fixture.
They saw off some quality opposition to reach the north west regional stages of the Under-13 competition in the new year, with Haslingden High School and Greenbank High School - our previous two winners prior to St Augustine's High School in 2017 - also part of the mix, alongside Clitheroe Royal Grammar School and a St Augustine's B team, who showed their school's strength in depth by also coming through the first qualifying heats.
Andy Aspinall, women and girls' football development officer at Blackburn Community Trust, was really pleased with the standard on show at the finals day, explaining:
"It was really good to see so many girls taking part who all regularly turn out for local sides, and for the few that didn't, I've urged them to get involved in a club alongside their friends, because to be competing at that standard, they're more than good enough.
"We had some real drama at the end with the outcome hinging on a goal in the final 15 seconds and we offer as many commiserations to St Augustine's at the congratulations we offer to Alder Grange, because they were two fantastic sides and both showed that they have the talent to have been worthy representatives for us this year.
"It's really pleasing to see so many teams coming back to this tournament year after year, including all of our previous winners, and it's a really nice feeling to be able to grant another new school the privilege of representing Blackburn Rovers against all the other EFL clubs in this year's tournament.
"We're really looking forward to working with Alder Grange to see how far they can go, and hopefully they can take us one step further than our two previous northern finals day appearances and go all the way to Wembley.
Alder Grange's first task in the new year will be to overcome the challenge of fellow north west sides such as Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and Wigan Athletic in the north west regional finals, before hopefully making it to the four-team northern finals competition.
The overall northern area winners will then be granted the privilege of playing at Wembley as the curtain raiser to the Checkatrade Trophy final on Sunday 31st March 2019, taking on the winners of the equivalent southern area competition.
Any high schools wanting to engage more of their female pupils in competitive or recreational football can find out more about the Community Trust's range of on-site delivery by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01254 508257.