WARREN BARLOW'S JUNIOR FOOTBALL FOCUS: Things are looking good for under-16s

THIS week I would like to concentrate on our under-16s age group which is looked after by our dedicated secretary for that age group, Stuart McNair.

Stuart has been around the grassroots game as a player, coach and, latterly, league secretary for most of his life.

The u16s age group has 32 teams and more than 500 players split between three sections, with the A and B having 10 teams each and Section C 12.

Currently, Boothstown and Westhoughton Rangers lead the way in Section C, Swinton in Section B with Barrhill and Highfield putting in some good performances to close the gap.

The tightest is Section A where every team at the top is picking up points.

Section A has teams such as Hindsford, Bridge, Turton, Bromley Cross, Pennington and a few others who could go on a run and take the title in May.

The u16s epitomise what grassroots football is about with competitive football and all teams capable of beating each other.

There are two cup competitions with the players and chairman's cups both at the quarter-final stage which will be played on February 8.

The finals will be held at the Eddie Davies Bolton Wanderers Academy on a date to be confirmed in May.

The support that Bolton Wanderers provides to this league and grassroots football in general is second to none.

We are so grateful as it gives our players, referees and coaches opportunities to use some of the best facilities in the country.

Nationally, there has been a drop off in players from u16s and above, whilst locally we are bucking the trend as our older age groups increase in numbers each year.

We want to ensure as many of our players as possible, and especially those who want to, can remain in the game into their adult lives and will look at all ways we can make that a reality.

This may mean linking with adult leagues and teams, developing u21s football, creating inter-league competitions and providing a pathway out of the league.

Whatever happens, you can be assured the Bolton, Bury and District League will not rest on its laurels.

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