Facing the Best

ACADEMY Director Kevin Hodges is relishing taking on “arguably the best English football club at this present time”.

Thursday night, in the third round of the FA Youth Cup, our young Pilgrims face the Manchester City academy at Home Park. The match kicks off at 7pm.

“The FA Youth Cup is exactly the same as the senior FA Cup” said Kevin, who was part of the Argyle side that reached the semi-final of the senior competition. “It provides opportunities for our young players to achieve something that could stay with them for the rest of their career.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and we’re all thoroughly looking forward to it.”

The youth team have still had to focus on their own League matches since we were drawn City in the third round, which could have been seen as a distraction.

“That in itself is a challenge for young players,” said Kevin, “because if they are fortunate enough to go on and have careers in football they’ve got to be able to deal with these sort of situations.

“I have to say, in fairness to them, they’ve coped with it really well. Naturally you can see within their training and their general conduct around the club, you can see they’re relishing the opportunity.

“The training hasn’t changed, it’s all been the same.”

Man City have been in the final of the FA Youth Cup for the past three years, proving just how high the quality of the players in the academy are.

“They play excellent football and that’s filtered down through all the levels,” said Hodges. “It’ll be a brand of football that is good to watch but very difficult to play against but that is the challenge that we’re relishing.

“City are fortunate to have a lot of players; not only English players but players from many other countries.

“We are being challenged by one of the biggest academies in the world and it’s an opportunity for our players to be tested and challenged against the finest players in our country.

“They played in the Champions League last week and they played eight Under-18s footballers so I don’t know what team they’ll be sending down!

“We have to prepare as I wouldn’t have thought they’d go too far away from their style of play.”

The match is to be played at Home Park, the same venue as the last two rounds have been played, although a much largely attendance is forecast.

Kevin said: “We’ve been quite fortunate as there are not many of the boys that haven’t played on Home Park. The crowd will be the new thing, of that size.

“I don’t know exactly what crowd size we’re going to get but some players will thrive in it and some players might struggle with it. Again, that’s part of young players’ development- being able to cope with the ground itself, the atmosphere but also remembering what they’re doing when they’re playing football.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to be mindful of what we’re up against. We will put in a plan to make it as difficulty as we can for City but at the same time we want to be brave- having the courage to get on the ball, play and use the ball.

“We’ve got some good players that can pass the ball well and we’ve got some good attacking players that can cause a few problems as well.

“We just have to know that we can’t be too open but at the same time, when we do get the ball, we have to have the courage to play our football and hopefully, force a few opportunities at our end as well.

“We are not underestimating the difficult task, Man City are coming down here expecting to win and we just want to give a good account of ourselves. In competitions anything can happen on the night.”