North Riding RTC Girls Shine as England Go Through

York City Regional Talent Club's Jess Park grabbed the limelight as she and Teesside RTC Emma Brown helped England U17s qualify for the Elite...

Park and Brown played their part in seeing John Griffiths' U17 Womens side top their group and qualify for the U17  European Championships Elite stage qualifiers later in the year.

But it was York City's Jess Park who grabbed the headlines as she netted five times in two games, two against Scotland in England's 3-0 win to add to the hat-trick against Latvia last weekend.

Park, who's just turned 16, has seen her talent nurtured for the last six years by City’s team of UEFA B and Level 2 coaches after leaving Hull City’s disbanded Centre of Excellence.

The Brough-based ace is now poised to join reigning Women’s Super League champions Manchester City, having also teed up a couple of goals in the 10-0 triumph over Latvia, when her team-mates included two players apiece from Liverpool, Arsenal and Aston Villa, as well as a representative each from Manchester City, MK Dons, Southampton and FC Saarbrucken.

Her success offers another demonstration of how York continue to punch above their weight nationally in terms of development provision in the ladies’ game.

Just last year, City achieved tier-one status to become one of 13 Regional Talent clubs in the country, offering the best standard of coaching available for elite female footballers from the age of ten to 16.

The other three-year licenses were awarded to Arsenal, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Brighton, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Oxford United, Southampton and Sunderland.

Clubs like Chelsea and Everton can only offer tier-two standard training to their talented young females which, given all of the above teams’ respective standings in the men’s game, puts the international success enjoyed by Park and other York youngsters into impressive perspective.

Along with Park, Kery Matthews has played for England U15s and 16s and will attend a training camp at St George’s Park next month.

Lilly Crosthwaite has also played in front of Matthews for the same Three Lionesses teams’, while Ruth Lukara played for their country last season, before graduating from the RTC.

Four more are now on the pathway to national honours with Abigail Wallace, Megan Calvert, Harley Skinner, Anna Vince and Olivia Shehi selected for regional development squads, while Felicity Jones and Angelica Rowe have won caps for Wales U15s.

The RTC’s technical programme is led by Adrian Costello – the brother of former City winger Nigel who, like his sibling, worked in the police force before becoming the academy operations manager and youth development phase lead coach at Bootham Crescent.

He has also coached at academy level with Hull City, Scunthorpe and Lincoln, but is now understandably delighted with the progress made by Park.

“Jess is a once-in-a-generation player,” Costello enthused. “We’ve got other players who are good enough to play for England, who have come through the Regional Talent Club, but Jess’ attitude, commitment and everything she does on and off the field mark her out as a future international senior player and I’m immensely proud of her achievements.”

Costello added that the girls’ international recognition, allied to a growing impact on the domestic game, is the reward for the work put in by an 11-strong coaching team, who offer their knowledge for two hours twice a week at York College and once a week at York St John University, as well as during matches over the weekend.

Some girls travel in from the one-and-a-half hour radius limit set by the FA but, whilst at older age groups the ratio is smaller, 50 per cent of the 64 youngsters are from York and the wider North Yorkshire region.

“The staff do a fantastic job here,” Costello added. “No corners are cut and we do everything to the best of our ability with the resources we have got.

“We’ve got players now from as far north as Darlington and as far south as Nottingham, because we’re getting a reputation for doing things the right way. It’s not all about results - we naturally want to see the girls winning games, but it’s about development and, last year, all eight girls that left us at the age of 16 joined Super League or Premier League teams.

“The U16s won a quarter of their games last season, but now they are competing at the top of the table. We won 10-3 against Leeds and have only been beaten by Manchester City and Liverpool, but shouldn’t have lost those games either.

“We try to get them to concentrate on performances and, then, the results will come and the FA have told us we have got the “culture” right here in York. We focus on developing players and engaging with parents, so they are educated as well.

“When you think who we play against – the likes of Sunderland, Leeds, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool – it’s incredible that we can attract some of the country’s best footballers. In our little area, we’re also competing against the likes of Doncaster Rovers Belles, Sheffield and Durham, who are all in the Super League second division.”

The RTC’s partnership with York St John also means students are benefitting from sports psychology and therapy, whilst an emphasis on injury rehabilitation and prevention has already reaped results.

“That seems to be working, because last season the only injuries were knocks - we had no muscle injuries,” Costello pointed out.

“We do a lot of physical performance work and it’s not just about the amount of football we give them.”

Perhaps the only unfortunate by-product of the RTC’s high standards is that its graduates have to leave the county to further their football education in the senior game with York City Ladies only operating at a regional level.

Addressing that issue, Costello pointed out: “We could keep Jess at York and win lots of games but, for her development, the best thing for her is to go to Manchester City.

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