MILK CUP FOOTBALL: Ghana boys dream of a rare double

Chris Sutton, former Chelsea and Blackburn striker at the Milk Cup Opening Ceremony talking with the players from Ghana
Chris Sutton, former Chelsea and Blackburn striker at the Milk Cup Opening Ceremony talking with the players from Ghana

The Ghana academy team Right to Dream are being tipped to become the first outfit to land the double in the 33-year history of the tournament.

Crewe Alexandra, Middlesbrough, West Ham United and Manchester City have all come close to achieving success in both Premier and Junior competitions.

In 1987 Crewe beat Liverpool in the Premier final but their Juniors lost out to Hibernian. ‘Boro defeated Manchester United in the Premier showdown in 1997 only to lose to West Ham in the Junior showpiece.

The Hammers went down to Chile in the Premier age group in 1998 and their Juniors fell to Crewe.

The last time a club featured in both deciders was at the beginning of the century when Manchester City suffered double heartbreak, failing at the final hurdle against Turkey (Premier) and Charlton Athletic (Junior).

“It’s a tough challenge but by all accounts the Right to Dream squads are world class,” says the tournament secretary and founding father Jim Weir.

“We have charted their progress over the past couple of years and it has been impressive. I reckon our supporters are in for a treat this year in both age groups.”

The Junior title has been won by overseas teams only six times in 30 years. Twelve months ago SC Corinthians from Brazil triumphed against County Antrim. Before that it was Mexico’s Guadalajara (2000), Danish side Lyngby Boldklub (2005), Israel’s Maccabi Haifa (2004), Racing Club of Argentina (2003) and Slovakia’s national squad (1993).

Mexican newcomers Zacatepec will hope to emulate Guadalajara’s success but they face a test against Southampton in their opening game this afternoon.

Meanwhile, with six-time winner Everton’s failure to return for the first time in some years, the door is wide open. The Toffees had only missed out on the final twice in the past seven years and County Antrim, beaten finalists in 2014 and 2013, will be hoping to go one better this time.