Morgan Hoping for Lengthy Cup Run
Tuesday, 6th Dec 2011 13:49
Academy manager Sammy Morgan says he’s looking for Town’s U18s to go as far as they can in this year’s FA Youth Cup as they begin their attempt to repeat the successes of 1973, 1975 and 2005 when they take on Leeds United at Portman Road this evening (KO 7pm). TWTD is amongst the sponsors of the third round tie.
Morgan told TWTD: “We want to go as far as we can, it’s quite simple. You hope you get one or two decent draws, but obviously you never quite know what will happen on the night.
“We let ourselves down last year, losing against Peterborough [in the third round], although I think the turning point was when we lost Caolan Lavery with a knee injury just before half-time. When we lost him we didn’t have a cutting edge from there. We were disappointed last year.”
He says he and U18s coach Russell Osman have run the rule over this evening’s opponents: “We’ve looked at Leeds, Russell and I have been up to watch them.
“It’ll be an interesting match, they’re quite a strong side. We’ll be in for a difficult game, as you’d imagine, but it’s about what happens on the night.
“Russell had the kids down on the pitch last week doing a bit of training and we’ve had them doing a little bit of work under lights down at the training ground just to get used to it.
“We’ve prepared as best we can, we’ve looked at them and it’s over to the players now for this evening.”
At youth level the main aim is to bring players through above looking for team success, however, that doesn’t mean the FA Youth Cup isn’t taken seriously: “It’s a prestige competition. But if you asked me what I’d rather do, produce players or win the Youth Cup, I’d have to say produce players.
“But you’d hope one would go hand in hand with the other - it’s no good winning it if you don’t produce a player out of it.
“You could have a squad and a couple of very good individuals that you know will come through and not win it and if you get those couple of players through at the end, that’s what it’s all about. That’s the aim of it.
“The Youth Cup allows the lads to get experience of playing down at Portman Road and seeing if we can go as far as we can. The more games they have, the greater the experience they’ll gain.”
But there’s no doubting the competitive edge to the competition. When Osman travelled to watch the Whites youngsters in action recently there were no teamsheets available.
On Saturday when the young Blues took on Charlton at Playford Road, losing 1-0, Town’s players took to the field wearing numbers different to the ones advertised. Morgan wouldn’t speculate on whether the two were linked: “That would be an observation from yourself and read into it exactly what you want!”
He says the senior academy players will be looking to make their mark on manager Paul Jewell and his staff this evening as they look to win professional contracts for next season: “Our second years in particular need to be out to impress, people like Callum Bennett and Joe Whight. He’s already signed a pro deal and you’re looking for him to state the reasons he has signed pro.
“You’ve got Aaron Jones, a full-back, who will have to say ‘look, I deserve a contract’. There’s Elliot Scotcher, a midfielder, the big centre-half Jide Maduako and the front player Carel Tiofack, these lads are the ones that need to impress the manager to win a contract.”
The one-time Aston Villa, Port Vale and Sparta Rotterdam frontman says schoolboy Byron Lawrence, who was on the bench for the first team in the Carling Cup tie against Northampton and has clearly impressed manager Paul Jewell, will play some part but is keen that too much isn’t expected of the 15-year-old too soon: “Byron will be involved in some capacity. He’s getting a lot of plaudits but with all those plaudits come expectations.
“He’s a younger one and he’s got time and you have to play him accordingly. You can’t throw too much expectation on a youngster.
“He has come a long way in a short time, but he is a good talent and we’ve got to nurture him in the same way as we did people like Connor Wickham.”
There was success for the academy last night with a player from the next generation of scholars, Cemal Ramadan, scoring a hat-trick for the Republic of Ireland U15s as they beat the Aspire Academy 6-1 in Doha, Qatar, the first game of two between the sides with the second tomorrow.
Morgan was delighted: “He came on for the second half and scored three. That wasn’t bad, was it? He’s an U15, he’s signed a scholarship for us for 2013 onwards, he’s still got another year at school. He’s a striker from Royston but with an Irish background.”
The upcoming changes to the academy system have been in the news a lot recently with Town yet to make a decision on whether to opt for Category One status - which would cost the club an annual £1.5 million plus a £750,000 grant from the Premier League - or the less expensive Category Two, £480,000 plus a grant of another £480,000.
The one-time Northern Ireland international says that purely from his perspective the former is the preferable option: “As football people we’d love to aspire to be Category One, especially if our colleagues up the road are going Category One, which I believe they are.
“The owner and the board have to make a decision. It’s a big outlay for a Championship club. However, it’s not a big outlay if you’re a Premiership club. If you aspire to be a Premiership club, do you speculate to do that?”
The 64-year-old feels the academy has made a good case for itself over the years with big fees having come into the club’s coffers for the likes of Wickham, Darren Bent, Titus Bramble and Kieron Dyer and with a steady flow of smaller deals for players such as Danny Haynes, Jordan Rhodes, Ian Westlake and Owen Garvan.
“You can draw up a financial report and see that the academy is well in the black,” he said. “Even in the seven years I’ve been here, the sale of Connor Wickham will have paid for the academy for quite a number of years.
“When Connor went I was obviously very saddened, however, you can have boys here and you can say they’re worth X,Y or Z, but that’s only on paper. When Connor actually went, you had tangible pound notes in the drawer.”
Coming back to this evening’s match and the current scholars, Morgan hopes his lads will impress those who make the trip to Portman Road and help to brighten the prevailing mood: “Hopefully tonight we can show one or two people that there are some good players here at the moment and put a bit of a smile back on a few faces.”
Entry to this evening’s game costs £3 for adults and £1 for concessions with tickets available at Britannia Stand turnstiles from 6.30pm. If the match ends in a draw, there will be extra-time and potentially a penalty shoot-out.
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