Exclusive: Why Hartlepool United have been forced to withdraw from 2021-22 FA Youth Cup after being drawn against Bolton Wanderers

Hartlepool United have withdrawn from the FA Youth Cup for the first time, here’s why…

Monday, 18th October 2021, 4:45 pm

Pools’ youth team was drawn at home to Bolton Wanderers under-18s in the FA Youth Cup first round.

But Hartlepool have become the first team to withdraw from the competition at this stage with Bolton receiving a bye to the next round.

The withdrawal is down to Pools being one of the few clubs in the competition who aren’t part of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and therefore aren’t registered as a category four academy and cannot register new players to take part in the competition.

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Players of Aston Villa celebrate with the trophy following the FA Youth Cup Final match between Aston Villa U18 and Liverpool U18 at Villa Park on May 24, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Pools made significant cuts to their youth set-up during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 as their paid academy system was scrapped in place of an unpaid partnership with Hartlepool College.

A quick turnaround following promotion back to the Football League in the summer didn’t provide enough time for the club to re-establish a fully fledged academy as the youth team remained a college side.

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Pools were still able to compete in the FA Youth Cup last season (losing 1-0 at home to Hebburn Town under-18s) due to the fact they were able to register the college players as non-contract players at Pools as a non-league outfit.

This season, being an EFL side, they don’t have that luxury and therefore aren’t able to register enough players to take part in the competition.

“It’s really disappointing,” Hartlepool manager Dave Challinor told The Mail.

“We’re the only club at the minute who have a huge anomaly in terms of where we’re at.

“Without being disrespectful, we’re not going to win the FA Youth Cup so to deny the players an opportunity to play in a prestigious competition, play under the lights at The Vic as they would have [against Bolton], I think it’s an absolute joke to be honest.

"For some of them, it could have been their only opportunity to play there and I think it stinks a little bit to deny them that opportunity.

"It’s absolutely no fault of the clubs and I feel sorry for the players more than anything.”

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