Atay: A Massive Well Done to the Boys
Monday, 7th Dec 2020 22:42
U18s manager Adem Atay said he couldn’t be more pleased for his players after they staged a remarkable second-half turnaround to come from 2-0 down to beat Fulham 3-2 in the FA Youth Cup at Portman Road.
The young Blues were 2-0 behind at half-time having been thoroughly outplayed before the break but pulled off a brilliant turnaround with sub Harley Curtis netting the winning goal four minutes into additional time to cement a place in the draw for round four.
“First and foremost, a massive well done to the boys, they’re delighted and so they should be with that second-half performance,” Atay told iFollow Ipswich.
“The first half we didn’t really show any belief, didn’t really compete, which are the basic principles of what you’ve got to do to start a game.
“We gave them too much respect, in a way were fortunate that it was only 2-0 at half-time and it still gave us a chance because, as the cliché goes, the next goal is crucial in the second half.
“And in the second half it was a completely different looking team. We changed shape, we wanted to secure things up centrally but give us our width and penetrate from those areas and credit to the boys because they didn’t just win the game but they won it with style, competed and that second half was totally ours and we couldn’t be more pleased for them.”
Regarding the message at half-time Atay, who is assisted in running the U18s by Jason Dozzell, added: “We had to change things, we had to be more aggressive on the front foot, both in and out of possession. We said to them about using the width, they were playing their diamond, so they were the areas we had to get into.
“But first and foremost, start tackling, start being aggressive, on the front foot and try and shift that momentum.
“A great goal by Brooklyn Kabongolo, a good cross from Liam Gibbs that gave us that shift of momentum and then we kept believing, took control of the game, dominated possession in the second half and took our chances when they came.
“We got a late equaliser and credit to them they still believed and saved it from going to extra-time and having a really late night.
“It’s not often we get opportunities to play against category one and Premier League clubs but to have a game like that where you get a last-minute winner is the boys creating memories for themselves.
“Not everyone goes on to have a career in this game at these ages but they can look back on this and they’ve got memories for life now.”
Prior to tonight’s match, the young Blues had defeated Southend 4-1 at Portman Road, then Chelmsford 5-0 away in rounds one and two with the tie against the Cottagers a big step up from those matches.
“We have to enter into round one which the club hasn’t been used to in the past but it gives us extra games, extra challenges against different opposition, but these are the games that the boys want to have,” Atay, a former academy player himself, continued.
“With the category two games programme not being the best, we don’t often get to play top clubs in a meaningful game and a cup game is always meaningful.
“It’s not the be-all and end-all, their ambitions are to go on and have a career in this game but this is a starting point for them, youth team football and cup games like this against top opposition.
“As I said, too much respect shown to them in the first half and then a completely different game in the second and fully deserved. We’re pleased.”
Reflecting on Fulham, Atay, 34, said: “They were a good footballing side, comfortable on the ball, physical, but it just shows when you have a bit of belief about you, want to compete, want to do the other side of the game, that comes first and then you implement your style.
“And that’s exactly what we did in the second half. It’s a night for the boys to enjoy and the focus for them is learning from this game.
“There’s a vast amount of talent in the changing room, some are in the U18s, some are in the U23s, some like Liam Gibbs and Elkan Baggott are getting a lot of first-team experience.
“That’s their focus, trying to have a career in this game, but certainly this was a game they can reflect on, learn from and take into future matches, whichever age group they’re with.”
While winning cup ties is gains headlines, the main aim for coaches such as Atay is produce players to progress into the senior side.
“Our prime role, any coach at this football club in the academy, is to try and develop the individuals to keep progressing and not just get into the first team but make the first team better,” he said.
“That’s the message to all players here - once you’re there try and make that first team better, you’re not there just to make up numbers.
“In previous years, the history of this football club and the academy has been producing footballers for the first team, or even to go on to bigger heights.
“We’ll continue to do that. The messages have been the same over the years from [head of player and coaching development] Bryan [Klug] and it’s important that we continue that and push the boys on for the current first-team regime and hopefully they can keep pushing on and doing well for us.”
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