Villa Time

THE Home Park buzz this weekend might have been all about the FA Cup, but, for one section of the club, talk has been not of Welling and Port Vale, but of Aston Villa.

For, on Tuesday, Argyle’s youngsters take on the midland Premier League side in a Goliath v David third-round FA Youth Cup-tie on the same Villa Park turf which regularly hosts the country’s footballing superstars.

“We’re delighted we’ve been given this opportunity of playing on such a big stage,” said Academy Head Kevin Hodges. “It’s about the boys making the most of that opportunity by going up there and putting in a good performance. There is still a chance of us progressing if we perform on the night and do our jobs really well.

“It’s a cup game. On the night, anything can happen. We might get lucky; we might be unlucky – who knows? As long as our approach to it is right and we work extremely hard. For us to succeed, each and every one of them is going to have to be on their game.

“That is something we are striving for on a consistent basis, anyway. If these young boys want to become professional footballers, they have got to show a level of consistency and a level of performance.

“We can’t overestimate what a big task it is going to be, playing against potential Premier League players. That, in itself, is a fantastic challenge for our boys’ education, coming up against these sorts of players and seeing the difference between us and them.”

The Pilgrims reached the stage in which – like the FA Cup – the big sides enter the competition after wins over Bristol Academy, at home, and at Colchester, where they prevailed after leading four times in a 4-4 draw and winning a penalty shoot-out.

“We put in a very good performance up at Colchester against a very good team,” said Kevin. “We did it the hard way by scoring first on four occasions and then going through the drama of a penalty shoot-out. But we held really firm and showed some really good mental qualities on the night.”

It is 30 seasons since Kevin was the width of a post away from scoring a notable Argyle goal at Tuesday’s famous venue, although that is in the back of his mind at the moment.

“I have had experiences of playing at Villa Park,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to be involved in the FA Cup semi-final team. It was a fantastic day. The stadium was full. I have also had the pleasure of playing league games there and I think I might have scored a goal there, as well.

“But, importantly, it’s about the boys. It’s a big occasion for them and an opportunity which they have made for themselves.”

Argyle (from): River Allen, Kieran Asumadu-Sakyi, Aaron Bentley, Jack Calver, Andrew Hannah, Callum Hall, Cory Harvey, Mason Hughes, Josh Hutchinson, Ryan Lane, Jake Miller, Tom Moxham, Ben Purrington, Louis Rooney, Will Sargent, Ethan Stark, Nathan Summers, Solomon Wheatley.