Notts County Youth Team pay tribute in France

Notts County Youth Team pay tribute to Jim King at the Footballers’ Battalion Memorial. Photo: Notts County FC

It's welcome relief from back-breaking fitness work on the training ground or the time they spend in the classroom. The players who made the trip are on a two-year scholarship scheme. At the end of the process some of them might earn a professional contract.

Head of Youth at Notts Country Mick Leonard said: "From when they come in at then end of their under 16 year you're just looking at how they'll progress over the two years. At the end of the two years ultimately it's the manager's decision who he wants to bring forward into his squad."

The academic side of the programme is just as important as the football side. The course is overlooked by the Football League.

Phil Stant is a Youth Development Officer for The Football League. He said "We are here to develop elite players but we're also here to develop people. Communicators, team players with discipline the attributes that future employers are looking for if they don't make it for the professional game."

This weekend has taken on special importance for this group of players. The man who had been teaching them about the Great War was education officer at the club, Jim King. He was due to join them here - but died just a few weeks before the trip.

Jim King Credit: Notts County FC

Youth team midfielder Mitchell Clarke said: "It's hard to put it into words what he was to us… I will never ever meet someone like him in my life and I think most of the trip goes to him."

Despite all the commonwealth memorial sites, for German goalkeeper Fabian Spiess it was the German cemetery that carried the most significance: "You can see that the Germans haven't put as much effort in as the English have, which is kind of disappointing for me because you want to remember these people the same way the English remember their people."

It's this time of year that the players in the second year of the scheme will find out if they will be offered a professional contract by the club.

Youth team captain Jake Wholey said: "If there wasn't the academic side then if you weren't offered a pro then it'd be a complete disaster but we have to plan for both. You have to plan for the best and you have to plan for the worst. You might not want to think of the worst but you have to do it."

Whether the players have a future in the game or not they'll always remember how lucky they are to be fighting for contracts in Nottingham instead of fighting for their lives in France.