England take on Northern Ireland at Home Park in under-18 schoolboy international
INTERNATIONAL football makes a welcome return to Plymouth with Home Park hosting the Under-18 Schoolboy Centenary Shield clash between England and Northern Ireland tonight (7pm).
England are defending champions of the prestigious schoolboy series, having won the Shield in exciting fashion in the final game of last season's competition.
The Centenary Shield is a showcase for the best schoolboy footballers in the British Isles, having spawned top-class players like Manchester United's Chris Smalling (pictured right).
Tonight's contest is a coup for the city and has been won through a partnership between the English Schools' Football Association, Plymouth Schools FA and Plymouth Argyle.
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Chris French, Plymouth Schools FA chairman, said the international provided fans of all ages a rare chance to see wannabe Premier League players.
French said: "This is a fantastic coup for football fans in the city to watch an international at Home Park.
"Tonight offers fans the chance to come and watch the stars of tomorrow show off their skills. In addition, all profits made will go back into schools football, with 50 per cent going directly to schools football in Plymouth.
"So, we hope to have a really big crowd tonight at Home Park and that the fixture will produce an excellent atmosphere for players and fans.
"The bigger the crowd, the more money goes in to support football in schools across the city for years to come."
Last season, England schoolboys topped the Under-18 Centenary table, winning three of their four matches.
Manager Andy Buckingham's Young Lions lost just once – in their opening match away to Wales – but then prevailed 4-0 and 2-0 over Northern Ireland and Scotland, respectively, before going on to clinch the title with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Republic of Ireland.
ON THE BALL: Abbie Howard (centre), of Widewell, will lead out England Under-18s against Northern Ireland at Home Park tonight. Also pictured is chairman of Plymouth Schools FA Chris French (left) and Ann Marie Heatherson from Bristol Academy Women's Super League team