U18s Go to Bristol City Looking for Revenge
Tuesday, 4th Dec 2012 06:00
Town’s U18s go into tonight’s FA Youth Cup third round tie against Bristol City at Ashton Gate looking for revenge, the Robins’ youngsters having beaten them 4-0 at Playford Road in the league earlier in September.
U18s coach Russell Osman, a winner of the competition with Town in 1975 and a man with plenty of connections with this evening’s opposition, said: “They’re great people at Bristol City and it’s a game we’re looking forward to very much. They came here and turned us over 4-0 early on in the season.
“They played well. We’ve seen some of their younger players in the U21s and we’ve seen a bit of video footage of them here and there.
“We’re under no illusions, we’re going to be in for a tough game, but we’ve got everyone fit and available for selection, which is always important with these games, and they’re all hungry to try and gain revenge, particularly with it being the FA Youth Cup.”
He says Town will have to be wary of the Robins at freekicks and corners: “They’re very well organised at set pieces. They’ve got one or two set pieces up their sleeve and I’m sure they’ll have one or two new ones that they’ll try to surprise us with.
“They’re hard-working, physical and try and play a good, solid all-round game. They pass the ball quite well, they don’t mind sticking it in behind your defence and getting after the ball. They’ve got a bit of pace up front.
“The lad Wes Burns scored a hat-trick against us early on in the season, so we’ve got to be prepared to defend well, play well, make sure we gain the initiative in the match and keep it.
“And we’ll try and do that by getting control of the ball, keeping possession and making sure we make it hard for them.”
This season has seen the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which has led to the formation of an U21 league and with the Blues lacking in players aged between 18 and 21, several U18 players have become regulars at the higher level.
Osman says they have impressed but that the coaching staff have been conscious not to overplay them: “I think they’ve done very, very well. There have been a lot of demands put on them with the new U21 requirements, so a lot of them have played a lot of football.
“At times we have had to give them an enforced rest, give them a breather. I think the players themselves would just like to play as many games as they could, but we have to give them a bit of guidance.
“It’s a long season, they’re young players and we’ve just got to make sure we don’t burn one or two of them out.
“It’s something that we’ve got to deal with, but it’s hard if you haven’t got a massive squad of young players to be able to pick from.
“Someone like Tottenham might have 20 players between the ages of 18 and 21 that they can choose from all the time as a separate squad. Our budget doesn’t allow us to carry that.
“Players that are signed as pros here have to be knocking on the door of the first team. Whether that will change in the next six months I don’t know, but I don’t think we’ll ever get in the position where we’ve got an U21 squad itself that’s made up of between 20 and 24 full-time pros without any U18s, without any overage players.
“The FA Youth Cup games are probably more U21 games in stature because it’s all about the result, it’s not a development game or anything like that, it’s a knock-out game and one we need to win on the night. U21 football is closer to first team football, which is all about getting the right result.”
A number of this evening's team have already played at tonight's venue this season, which Osman hopes will calm a few nerves: “It’s handy for our lads this time because one or two of the squad played in the U21 fixture at Ashton Gate earlier on in the season, so they’ve played in the arena already.
“But it’ll be a completely different atmosphere, there’ll be more spectators there, it’s under lights and as far as I’m concerned you can’t beat a football match under lights in the evening, it just creates a different atmosphere. It’s like Ipswich in the old days, any European game on a Tuesday night under lights is fantastic.
“It’s a new experience for them. I think they enjoyed it last year when we played Leeds down at Portman Road. We got turned over at Burnley a few weeks after that, which was a bit disappointing in the way it happened, so let’s see how well we do this year.”
Osman, speaking yesterday, picked out a few of his players who have been making an impact so far this season with midfielder Byron Lawrence the most familiar, having made his first team debut as a sub on the final day of last season.
“I think we have a full squad to pick from," he said. "We’ll go through our normal morning’s training this morning. Hopefully we won’t pick up any injuries there and we travel down to Bristol later on today.
“Keeper Michael Crowe was 16 when he came in [from IK Start in his home country Norway in the summer] but, he doesn’t look 16! He’s 6ft 4in tall, he’s done exceptionally well. There have been a lot of demands on him.
“He’s played quite a few games in the U21s already. He’s coming on leaps and bounds but we have to expect little dips in form when they’re that age, so we have to be ready for that, able to give him a breather when he needs one. But in the first third of the season he’s done exceptionally well.
“Kyle Hammond is a first-year pro. He’s more or less made the right-back slot his own, and again he’s been playing in the U21s.
“George Fowler is a centre-half, he’s still a schoolboy. He’s a very bright prospect. We’ve got Matt Clarke, another schoolboy. He’s 6ft 2in or 3in tall, very good on the ball, so we’ve got one or two players there who are catching the eye at the younger end of the scale.
“A young lad at centre-half Omar Sowunmi has come in and done very well after missing the first three months of the season with injury.
“Jack Marriott’s done well, scoring goals for us, he’s just got to tidy his game up in one or two areas off the ball.
“And then we’ve got some competitive players in midfield. Amir Berkane and Jack Willbye have done well, Jonny Leddy has done well in the last couple of games for us, good composure.
“David October, the left-back, he’s played a lot of minutes with the U21s, so we’ve got the nucleus of a nice squad at the moment.”
He says new manager Mick McCarthy has caught the youngsters in action on a few occasions already: “He’s had a couple of practice matches where he’s wanted to have a look at a couple of senior trialists and it’s given him the opportunity to have a look at some of the kids at the same time.
“And I think he’s been quite pleased. I think he sees a nucleus of good players there who could be the backbone of a solid U21 squad in the future, if that’s the way he’s allowed to go.”
Speaking at the recent Supporters Club AGM academy director Bryan Klug said he believes there are academy players coming through who are close to the first team and Osman agrees: “We hope so.
“Bryan’s done a magnificent job since he’s come back in. He’s got set ideas of how he wants to play, which is the way Ipswich have always played really – a good passing game of football, trying to give the players lots of confidence to do that.
“Under his guidance we’ve played some nice football and those players that I think he’s on about are becoming more and more rounded as they play the academy style with the U18s and a bit more of a direct style with the U21s.
“They have to be able to do that because the next step, which might not be too far away for some of them, will be the first team.
“They’ve got to start looking at that. They’ve got to say, ‘I’m 18, I need to be making sure I get a pro contract, I need to be trying my hardest to be considered to be the next left-back in the first team squad’.
“So, if there is an injury to Aaron Cresswell, someone like David October, or whoever is playing in that position, has got to be banging on the door, showing that they’re good enough to be considered so if there is a long-term injury, the manager doesn’t have to go out and look for a loan signing. That’s the challenge for them all.”
Osman is hoping the players can replicate his own experiences in the competition with Town, having won the trophy as a schoolboy playing at left-back in 1975 in a team which also featured John Wark.
Tommy O'Neill, Keith Bertschin and David Geddis scored the goals in a 3-1 win at Upton Park in the first leg with O'Neill and Bertschin on target again in a 2-0 victory at Portman Road in the second.
Osman said: “We’ve got a very good record having won the FA Youth Cup three times.
“I was lucky enough to play in the side in the final against West Ham and we had more than 16,000 people here for that second leg, which was terrific.
“Bryan has had equally as much success with the FA Youth Cup and as a coach and a player has been heavily involved in it over the years.
“We would like that to continue. We’ve got a good reputation as an academy set-up here. We produce good players and it’s the icing on the cake really when you do well in something like the FA Youth Cup.
“It’s a big competition and it’s still recognised as being the big competition even with these EPPP changes going on. It still stands up on its own.”
Coincidentally, Bristol City were Town’s opponents in the final the first time they won the trophy in 1973 when the Blues side included the likes of George Burley, Dale Roberts, Eric Gates, John Stirk, Robin Turner and John Peddelty.
Turner was on target, along with Steve Vale, who scored twice, as Town won the home first leg 3-0 in front of 5,556 supporters, before a 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate, Peddelty grabbing an early goal for the Blues to seal the victory for Charlie Woods’s side in front of a crowd of more than 6,000.
Current academy director Klug was in charge at Playford Road when Town last won the trophy in 2005 via a 3-2 aggregate victory over Southampton team, 15-year-old schoolboy Ed Upson, now with Yeovil, slamming in an extra-time second leg winner at Portman Road.
Admission at Ashton Gate is at £3 for adults and £1 concessions. The game kicks off at 7pm and will come to a conclusion tonight with extra-time and penalties if the scores are level at full-time. TWTD will have a full report and updates.
Squad: Crowe, October, Thompson, Clarke, Marriott, Winter, Timlin, Hammond, Willbye, Berkane, Lawrence, Robinson, Leddy, Galvin, Hendry, Sowunmi, Ramadan.
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