A close-knit group of young Melton footballers who have played together for almost a decade have continued their journey together into the unforgiving world of senior football.
The former Melton Foxes and their manager Jason Hall were recruited by Melton Mowbray FC this season to form the nucleus of their future senior sides, and to begin a feeder link between the junior and senior clubs.
The under 17s players make up the bulk of Melton’s Reserves, playing league football in the Leics Combination.
Hall knows his players well, most since they were under 8s when he began to help out as a dad at the club.
“Out of my 13 players, eight have come with me,” he said. “Some got offers from different clubs so they are progressing in their own way which is fantastic.
“It’s a long-term project to bring youth into the club and give them experience of the Senior League and the first team.
“The overall objective is for them to develop and get them to adapt to how men play.
“We have also got some old heads around them who have been there and done it and they are always offering encouragement and coaching.”
The step-up to men’s football has been a culture shock to players who are used to consistent success.
As a youth side with three successive promotions, two league titles and a Melton Charity Cup win in recent seasons, they are now having to get used to regular defeats, some of them heavy.
But as their manager reminds them, results are not the important barometers this season.
He added: “This time last year my lads were playing 15 and 16-year-olds, and now they are up against 6ft 2, 16-stone guys.
“The physical side is a challenge, and they are struggling a bit, but it will come with time.
“We have lost a few games and they are not used to losing, but this season is not about results.
“We are in constant communication with the first team and I advise who is ready.
“Four of my lads have already played for the first team which is a success in itself, and the first team players have been surprised at their ability.”