Oakham United Under 17s win the Leicestershire Youth League Division One title
The future is looking bright for Oakham United after the Rutland club's Under 17s side toasted a title triumph on Sunday.
They were crowned Leicestershire Youth League Division One champions after completing an unbeaten campaign with a 1-1 home draw against runners-up Oadby Owls.
The draw ensured Oakham finished five points clear of their nearest rivals after winning seven and drawing five of their 12 league matches in a Covid-affected campaign.
The title success was the culmination of the side being together for a number of years and manager Mark Gamble - who had only taken charge of the team this season - was full of praise for his young charges.
Gamble said: "All of the players have been tremendous throughout the season.
"Everyone has done their bit and played their hearts out. I can't fault them because they have all stuck with it.
"They have listened and wanted to learn and have been dedicated to being at training every week.
"They wanted to be there and wanted to do it and that's what drove me on as the manager because they were really interested in what we were doing."
Oakham had made a strong start to their campaign before the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be suspended in December.
The league season got back underway again in April with Oakham picking up where they left off to seal their title triumph.
They conceded just seven goals in their 12 league games while keeping seven clean sheets with their defensive displays a crucial part of their success.
Gamble added: "It is something that we worked on a lot with the basis that you will always have a chance if you don't concede goals.
"We built from our defence during pre-season and the first few league games and we have just gone from there.
"The fear we had was that we were doing so well before the season was suspended that it wouldn't continue afterwards but I'm just glad it did."
Oakham made a strong start to Sunday's league finale when Oliver Ricketts put the Rutland side ahead.
Despite missing the influential Aidan Quinn and skipper Mikey Baird, Oakham remained on top until Oadby produced a rousing finish to equalise and earn a share of the spoils.
It wasn't enough though to deny Oakham finishing the campaign undefeated before the Rutlanders turn their attentions to next season at Under 18 level with a number of players also set to get their chance in the club's senior sides.
Gamble continued: "We controlled the game throughout on Sunday but, in the back of the players' minds, they knew that it was done so switched off for the final 10 minutes and Oadby equalised.
"We will keep the team together now for Under 18s next season while the first and reserve sides look to bed them into men's football.
"The nucleus is there now for a couple of seasons and our men's teams will be able to drip feed them in.
"Normally you get three or four who are capable of making the step up straight away, but from this group of lads everyone of them could play men's football tomorrow and not look out of place which is good for the future of the club."