BEN Hirst has become the first player from York's 2011 English Schools FA Cup-winning team to break into the pro game but his former coach is confident he will not be the last.

The Minstermen's 16-year-old striker, who has made five first-team appearances from the bench this season, was a member of the history-making, under-13 side that became the city's first to win a national schoolboy tournament.

He scored the opening goal and also hit the bar during a 2-0 victory over Southampton at Milton Keynes Dons Football Club just over three years ago and is now one of five players from that team currently on the books at Bootham Crescent.

The others are Ben Godfrey, Richard de Groot, Matty Parker and Rob Cooney, while Joey McCormick, who joined Hirst on the scoresheet at Stadium MK, is a scholar at Doncaster and Liam Neal is believed to be linking up with Chesterfield following spells with Middlesbrough and Manchester United.

Many of the remaining players from the talented squad are either attached to local, senior non-League outfits such as Tadcaster Albion and Selby Town or have enrolled as pupils at York College's respected football development centre.

Tony Wales managed the crop of York schoolboy players, spearheaded by Hirst, from under-12 to under-15 level and is not shocked to be already discussing the Football League breakthrough of one of his former charges.

He said: "With that side, we tried to gel a team together that played in the right way and there are quite a few at clubs now who have all got chances of making it. I am hoping one or two more are given that opportunity to prove themselves and I would be amazed if it stops at Ben.

"I'm not at all surprised that it's happening already. They were a good group but it's all about how they apply themselves now and avoid the distractions.

"I will be really interested, as a bystander, to see where they all end up in the football pyramid."

Much like City boss Nigel Worthington's former international team-mate Norman Whiteside, who played for Northern Ireland at the 1982 World Cup finals when he had just turned 17, Hirst has the physique to contend with the demands of senior football at an early age.

His former mentor Wales, therefore, understands Worthington's belief that the former All Saints pupil might have already outgrown Youth Alliance football, saying: "Ben had raw talent but, sometimes with us, his size made things a bit difficult for him.

"He would never duck out of a challenge but, on occasions, he had to because he could do damage to the young lads. That changed when people caught him up a bit but there was still the danger that we could have become a one-man team.

"We wanted to avoid that because we had quality all over the pitch and he would fill in at centre half if I needed him too."

That willingness to put the team first will have impressed Worthington, who insists on the same principles in all his players, with Wales adding: "Ben was always very vociferous in the changing room and very reliable and mature for his age.

"He maybe didn't know it himself but he had leadership qualities and I told him that several times. He stood out physically for a lot of people but, behind the scenes, he did great things for me and encouraged some of the other lads.

"He also listened and, if he stepped over the line, he learned from it and he was a pleasure to work for. He was one of our jokers in the changing room and you need that too.

"It makes me very proud to see Ben getting his debut and a chance in the first team. I am delighted for him and have rung his dad to pass on my regards and wish him all the best."

Wales, who now coaches at City Football Development, also supports the vision of Bootham Crescent's newly-appointed academy manager Andy McMillan and development consultant Richard Cresswell that all of York's talented footballers should get the best possible opportunity to carve out a career in the game at their local club.

"I am hoping, going forward, the York coaching family, including York City, York Schoolboys, City Football Development and York College, will come together and talk to each other more," he said. "Most lads in York would stay in York if the club shows they have an opportunity to make it there.

"Why would you travel if it was and the quality of coaching was high? It's certainly easier financially for parents.

"Hopefully, we will see that happening with Andy McMillan and Richard Cresswell around. There's a lot of young talent in York now and it's a case of nurturing it.

"Supporters respond to local boys who do well and they would love nothing better than seeing Ben Hirst smashing a goal in at Bootham Crescent or even Wembley ."

Fletch fires his way to top of pile

WES Fletcher's match-winning brace at Stevenage has put him in pole position at the top of The Press Player of the Month standings for September.

The ex-Burnley forward was our man of the match during the 3-2 win in Hertfordshire, earning him three points towards the contest.

He also picked up the two bonus points on offer after polling the most man-of-the-match votes from visitors to our website and followers of the @daveflettpress Twitter account.

Michael Coulson (two points) and Femil Ilesanmi (one) were also recognised, meanwhile, as our second and third-highest rated players respectively at Broadhall Way.

To be in with a chance of presenting The Press Player of the Month for September with a framed photograph at Bootham Crescent, vote for your man of the match from today’s game at Burton or Tuesday's home clash with Luton on this website or by tweeting @daveflettpress

The Press Player of the Year standings: McCombe 8, Coulson 7, Straker 7, Summerfield 6, McCoy 5, Penn 5, Fletcher 3, Lowe 3, Ilesanmi 2, Ingham 2.

The Press Player of the Month for September standings: Fletcher 5, McCombe 3, Coulson 2, McCoy 2, Summerfield 2, Ilesanmi 1, Penn 1.

Goals: Fletcher 3, Hyde 2, Lowe 2, Coulson 1.

Assists: Coulson 2, McCoy 2, Meikle 2, Straker 1, Summerfield 1.

Bad boys: Penn two yellow; Hyde, McCoy, Platt, Straker all one yellow.