The revival of youth football for players between the ages of 16 and 18 was one of the most important features of The FA’s work at the end of the Second World War.
During the 1944-45 season the experiment of starting a national competition for Under-18s was welcomed with enthusiasm. The FA’s aim was to provide representative football for the best young players who had not signed up with professional clubs.
Thirty-six of the 41 County Associations entered teams in a knockout competition called ‘The County Minor (Youths) Championship’ and Staffordshire beat Wiltshire 3-2 over the two legs of the first Final. Initially there was no trophy, with the players of the winning team just receiving FA blazer badges.
Another interesting feature of that first season concerned The FA’s educational activities. An instructional course for senior boys attending public and secondary schools was held at Stamford Bridge during the Easter period. It was appreciated by all who took part and requests were made for similar courses in the future.
Nowadays any player under written contract, including those registered at academies or centres of excellence, is not eligible to play in ‘The FA County Youth Cup’. Players under 18, whether they are at school or playing in leagues affiliated to County FAs, are eligible, although not every County enters the competition.
The County Youth Cup Final was played over two legs until Hertfordshire edged Cheshire in a one-off match in 1970. The second leg of the 1950 Final, which featured Essex and Middlesex, was played at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool then produced some outstanding teams, reaching The Final five times in nine years from 1972.