IT took some young footballers from Lyons Hall Primary School to finally bring some National League glory to Braintree Town after a troubled season for the Iron.
After the club’s first-team was relegated from the top-flight of English non-league football, the youngsters from the Braintree school restored some Iron pride on the biggest stage of all by becoming National League Under-11s Cup champions at Wembley Stadium.
The Lyons Hall team had progressed through a local round against other schools from around the district to earn the right to represent Braintree at the regional finals and, having won that, had the chance to battle at the national finals and play on the hallowed Wembley turf.
Their involvement came on the National League play-off finals day and, in front of thousands of fans from all over the country, they flew the orange flag with pride.
The Lyons Hall team of Luke Holland, Alex Efreme, Dylan Carpenter-Flack, Harrison Cross, Ryan Mosdall, Quinn Lucas-Williams, Aidan Cruddas and Hadley Quattrucci extended their unbeaten run in the competition to 22 games and lifted the trophy in the royal box.
The team were coached by Community Iron staff in the lead up to the event and wore the Braintree kit that had been donated by club sponsors Ironmongery Direct.
Mark Sansom, who is manager of the Braintree Town Academy and Community Iron programme, said: “I’ve been associated with Braintree Town for many years and couldn’t put into words how proud I was for this group of boys to be representing the club that I love.
“The way that they portrayed themselves throughout was a dream.
“They deserved every bit of their success.
“Not just because they played fantastic football, but it was for the way that they carried themselves.
“It was the perfect squad, working together to get the job done and that is what we dream of from players who pull on the Braintree Town shirt.”
Danny Hunt, a sports coach at Lyons Hall School added: “It was surreal to get there in the first place but to win it on top of that was very special.
“I thought we’d just go there to enjoy it and try to be competitive and to ultimately win it was incredible.
"At the final whistle, there was honestly a tear in my eye as it was such a special moment and had been such an amazing process.
“I’m so proud of the boys and I think they do now understand what they’ve done by not just being county or regional champions but as national champions.”
On finals day, the youngsters from the Deerleap Way school drew 0-0 with Kidderminster, before 1-0 wins against Telford and Gateshead to book a place in the final where they beat Gateshead again 3-0.
That was then capped with a final game on the hallowed Wembley turf where the Braintree boys, knowing they had already secured the cup, were able to relax and enjoy the occasion as they beat Gateshead again 2-0.
All that was left then was a walk up the famous Wembley steps to the royal box to collect medals and the trophy as National League Under-11s Cup winners.
Sansom added: “If you said to any of them ‘what was the highlight’, then the fact that they are national champions is irrelevant to them and they would say that it was playing at Wembley that was amazing.
“It was such an experience for them; they were up on the big screen and got to use one of the big changing rooms - it was just everything.
“When they came off the pitch, one of the lads said to me ‘I’ve just scored at Wembley’ and I said to him that that’s something that no-one can ever take away.
“It really was a day for them to remember.
“Individually, they are just fantastic.
“Looking at their personalities and attitudes, they compliment one another and there is no-one there pulling in any direction other than the right one.
“They are genuinely nice individuals and it’s been a real pleasure to have worked with them.
“Their passing game was never in doubt and we saw that from day one, but we built on other things with them leading up to the finals.
“There were teams there who were more physical, but that didn’t bother the Lyons Hall lads and they adapted to everything that was thrown at them.”