AFTER a much-maligned absence of several years, Bradford Schools football is back, with the city's finest young players coming together to take on the rest of the county.

The English Schools Football Association (ESFA) was founded more than 100 years ago, with many gems, such as Wayne Rooney, discovered through the system.

Bradford had teams competing in these FA tournaments into the early 2000s, until a lack of funding forced them to withdraw.

But an Under-11s team made a comeback at the end of last season, and now, with sponsorship, kit and a place in a prestigious tournament secured, Bradford's schools are well and truly back on the map.

The new U11s side travelled to St Theresa's school in Leeds earlier this month to take on teams from the area in the Yorkshire Cup, with an U12s team doing the same last Saturday too.

Both were knocked out in the group stages, but the U11s did pick up a win over Rotherham, while the U12s defeated both Wakefield and York, the latter team actually going on to win that tournament.

Freddie Best and Max Bucktrout netted for the U11s at the tournament, while Alfie Ramsden and Theo Howard scored in the U12s edition.

The whole Bradford Schools operation is headed up by Mark Senior, who has been a popular and successful academy coach for many years, with the U11s side led by manager Lee Walker, whose son Louie, who also scored at the U11s tournament, is part of the side.

Walker was extremely enthusiastic about the rebirth of a footballing institution in Bradford, saying: "The council stopped backing us and we just had no funding.

"But we've got the lads doing sponsorship events, Aldo's restaurant in Greengates has provided us with a kit and Forceshield Security have helped out with jackets too.

"At the moment, though, the boys have to pay subs for the pitches. We have to do it but it doesn't seem fair, given that they're playing here on merit, so we're hoping for more sponsorship as we don't want that."

The reborn institution is embracing social media too, with Walker confirming that they have set up a Bradford Schools Football Association Facebook page, which has got more than 1,000 members.

Meanwhile, talking about the history and format of schools football, Walker explained: "It's been restored and regenerated in Bradford. The ESFA is over 100 years old but our team has been out of use for several years, which is a shame because it's prestigious for your town or city.

"All cities have a schools team, Liverpool had Wayne Rooney for example, and our lads have all been selected through trials this July at Beckfoot School, where schools across Bradford were able to offer their best players.

"It's a massive part of the Bradford district. I was part of Bradford Schools in the 1990s, and was a YTS and reserve at Bradford City when they went up to the Premier League, so it's nice for my son to play and carry that on now."

Walker was thrilled to enter U11 and U12s teams from Bradford into the Yorkshire Cup this month, saying: "Last year's U11s played in a handful of tournaments but they didn't even have their own kit.

"So this is us doing things properly, and it's easily our biggest tournament to date since we restarted Bradford Schools.

"We're just doing monthly tournaments at the moment, as we have a lot of kids at academies. Six are at Bradford City, my son is at Barnsley and there's one at Manchester United. It would just be too much for them to do this weekly."

Walker is pleased with the make-up of those in charge, saying: "Mark basically is the head of all age groups. He's an ex-Manchester United coach (as well a former academy coach for the Bantams' U16 and U18s sides) so he has plenty of experience.

"He spoke to Adrian Exley, who was a huge part of Bradford Schools when it was running previously, to talk about setting it up again.

"They've got me coaching the U11s as well. I wanted an assistant, and thought a PE teacher would be perfect, so I've managed to get George Wysocki from Thornton Primary involved.

"He teaches PE to my son Louie, as well as a few of the other kids, so it just fits perfectly."

Asked about what the future holds, Walker said: "We've actually just started an U11s B team, managed by Gary Ratnik and Peter Larvin, and we're hoping for a trickle down the age groups going forward too.

"So for example last year, Louie played with what are now the U12s, who were all a year older, and now he's with those his own age in the U11s.

"We've got a couple of boys who should really be U10s playing in the U11s this year too, so the aim is to have them drop down next year so they're still playing with new U11s next year.

"That system should see us have more and more age groups start up in Bradford over the coming years."

Bradford Schools is back, with the finest young footballers around now getting the chance to show off their skills by representing the city.

So get your youngsters down to Beckfoot School for trials next July and who knows? Maybe your child could be the next Wayne Rooney?