MILK CUP: Bolton Wanderers are on their way back

Last year’s beaten Premier finalists were so impressed with the standard and organisation of the top international youth tournament that they quickly signed up for this summer’s competition.

“It is a real feather in our cap to have a Premier League club so keen to return,” says tournament chairman Victor Leonard.

“There is now such intense competition for youth teams with so many large summer tournaments across Europe vying for entrants.

“But in Northern Ireland we have something very special and that is the support and backing our event receives from the public.

“The visiting players and officials love the welcome they receive here throughout their stay and that is the key thing they take away with them.

“It is a winning formula. Something that is not unique to Northern Ireland but so genuine and natural that it makes a lasting impression and changes the perception of this country for many people after they have spent a week with us.”

Bolton lost last year’s Premier final 2-1 to the exciting Africans Etoile Lusitana who have already confirmed their return.

The Senegalese won numerous friends with their superb skills and positive outlook.

Also returning in the Premier section for Under-17s are Aspire from Qatar and New Zealanders Otago.

New Zealand keeper Masen Hayes is hoping to be included. He has already been on trial at Ipswich Town as well as Rushden and Diamonds while Leicester City are also keen on the young talent and have invited him to train later this year.

The Milk Cup draw will be made in Belfast’s Odyssey Complex on Thursday, May 26, while the competition kicks off on Monday, July 25, following a welcome parade of teams through Coleraine on Sunday, July 24.