Youth Takes Centre Stage

IT is cup week at Home Park this week.

On Saturday, the Pilgrims’ 2017-18 Emirates FA Cup trail begins when they host Grimsby Town in the first round of a competition which, last season, saw them play Premier League Liverpool in two memorable matches.

First, though, on Tuesday, the Argyle Academy are in action in the EFL Youth Alliance FA Cup in which they have been drawn at home to Eastleigh, kick-off 7pm.

Argyle’s youngsters have had a mixed start to the season having won four of their first seven games in the Alliance. Since then, they have lost their last four matches.

However, Academy head Kevin Hodges has often fielded a very young side, comprising mainly players from the Under-16s because many of the Under-18 regulars have been playing in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League.

On Tuesday, Hodgy will have a fully fit squad from which to select, which has not been the case for most of the season. Among the squad are two apprentices who have featured in the first-team squad this season: goalkeeper Michael Cooper (pictured) and midfielder Cameron Sangster.

“We have a full squad to choose from, which has been rare for the last few weeks,” he said. “There are a lot of players out there looking forward to the first rounds of the Youth Cup.”

Kevin also believes that the players are well prepared, having already had the chance to play on the Home Park surface.

He said: “We are fortunate, not like in past seasons where some of our young boys haven’t familiarised themselves with playing on the main pitch. Most of our young players involved will have played on the main pitch through the support of the manager allowing that to happen.”

Tuesday’s opponents Eastleigh have had an Academy structure only for the last six years. However, they are unbeaten in the National League Under-19 Alliance and currently sit top of the table with five wins from five games.

They lost in the first round of the competition 5-0 away to Portsmouth last season but Hodgy knows its not going to be easy.

“We are looking forward to it and we know it’s going to be a challenging encounter as we know there’s no easy games in football,” he said.

“We’ve got to make sure we are tuned in and well prepared. We’ve tried to find out certain things; we are aware of the games they have played so far in the earlier rounds; we know the leagues they play in.

“We are not familiar with players, but we can’t underestimate them as they from a very good catchment area with Southampton and Portsmouth.”

Last season, the Young Greens lost in the second round of the cup, 4-2 on penalties to Gillingham after the game finished 2-2 following extra-time.

Argyle (from): Andrew Burn, Max Childs (gk), Michael Cooper (gk), Billy Craske, Elliott Crawford, Harry Downing, Rio Garside, Aaron Goulty, Harry Hodges (capt), Luke Jephcott, Ryan Law, Klaidi Lolos, Mike Peck, Tom Purrington, Adam Randell, Cameron Sangster, Matthew Ward.