Atay: An Unbelievable Game of Football
Friday, 30th Apr 2021 21:11
U18s manager Adem Atay admitted he didn’t know where to start following his side’s 3-2 after-extra-time FA Youth Cup quarter-final victory over Sheffield United, a tie which had everything and which sets up a semi-final against Liverpool, the club he supports, at Portman Road.
An own goal two minutes from the end of extra-time won the tie after a game which swung this way and then that, while two lengthy stoppages saw injury time across the whole match total 33 minutes, surely a Portman Road record. Overall, from kick-off to final whistle the game took place over three hours.
“Congratulation to the boys,” Atay said. “On the duration of the night, I’m really sorry to see the boys that have come off injured and obviously we wish them all the best for a speedy recovery and hope it’s nothing serious.
“In terms of the actual occasion, I said to the boys in there that I don’t know where to start. They’re obviously celebrating, they deserve to celebrate, but what an unbelievable game of football.
“First and foremost our identity as a football club, our identity as the U18s and representing the academy, I’m just so proud that they were able to showcase that tonight.
“We said in the build-up that it would be whoever can handle the emotions on the night, the occasion. Don’t play the occasion, stick to the principles, stick to the process of what we’ve been teaching them, on the night have you got that temperament to come out on top when it matters.
“The boys went a goal down, there were enough stoppages to disrupt momentum, but they didn’t quit, they kept going right to the end, and we’ve shown that in previous rounds, and then we got the goal back.
“And then there’s the flip of Sheffield United having a man sent off and you can see teams sometimes rush things a little bit and force the issue, but they stayed calm, they kept working the ball, using the wide areas and eventually got that chance, although we had a lot of chances, I think we hit the woodwork two or three times.
“Most importantly, we’ve won the game, the identity and the style was there for the club and the academy and we’re delighted.
“And the night can be summed up by the fact that we’ve just had the manager and Gary Roberts in there celebrating with the boys.
“They’re creating memories. We said we didn’t want the journey to stop leading into this game, and it hasn’t. And now we can look forward to a game against Liverpool or Arsenal.
“What an opportunity, a semi-final of an FA Youth Cup in an era when it’s not often you see a League One football club that’s got an academy going into the semi-final of a competition like that. The boys deserve every credit.”
Regarding keeper Antoni Bort, who was stretchered off having undergone 16 minutes of treatment on the pitch after suffering a knock in the third minute, Atay said: “I only saw him at half-time, he was flat out on the bed, he was conscious. I asked if he was OK and he said ‘Yes’. I said that he didn’t look it.
“I’ll go in now and find out because the win wasn’t just for the boys, it was for him as well. He’s part of this team.
“It was fantastic that Lewis Ridd was able to come on and contribute and do very well in goal tonight as well.
“The whole group’s got good team spirit and they’ll make sure he knows about that and hopefully that will aid his recovery.
“I didn’t know too much about it. I didn’t go over. Sometimes we get caught up in wanting to know how they are and we’ve just got to let the professionals take care of it. We’ll find out now when we go in.
“At first it was a cut on the back of the neck, potentially he was feeling problems in his back so we’ve just got to wait and see.”
The Blues will face Liverpool in a semi-final which must be played before Saturday 15th May, the Merseysiders having beaten Arsenal 3-1 at home in their quarter-final this evening.
Liverpool fan Atay added: “That’s brilliant. I was saying earlier that we always want to play teams that don’t get the opportunity to in league games.
“No disrespect to Sheffield United, but if we’d had lost tonight it would probably have left a little bit of a bitter taste because they’re opponents in our league programme.
“To have the experience that we’ve had against Fulham, against Middlesbrough and now against Liverpool, they’re the games that we want.
“And we won’t be afraid on the night, we’ll be the underdogs. They’re a Premier League club, a cat one club and the boys can just look forward to it and we can’t wait for it.”
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