THE FA Youth Cup journey for this season begins with a fascinating Devon derby clash for Argyle at Exeter City tonight.
The Pilgrims enjoyed a wonderful run last year, memorably defeating Manchester City and Burnley along the way, and academy director Kevin Hodges will be reminding his players of what they have achieved before, as well as the need to be clinical on the night.
Argyle’s schedule has been particularly tough for the apprentices this year, competing in the Carlsberg South-West Peninsula League and the EFL Youth Alliance, as well as some reserve-team games, but this fixture at St James’ Park should be extra special.
“It’s a few years since we’ve had a Devon derby in the cup,” said Hodgy. “It adds a little bit of spice to the tie; we’re very familiar with them and they’re familiar with us.
“As always, it will be the team that performs best on the night. The second-year apprentices within our set-up have had a taste of the success from last year and they know what it feels like. They will be determined to try and replicate that.
“If you can get through the early rounds in this competition, things can develop from there. We’re not taking anything granted and the players have got to produce and perform this evening.
“We’ve got a number of players who haven’t played on the big scene before and, like all young players, they handle these things differently. We will find out how they respond tonight to this type of fixture.
“We change teams around with the Youth Alliance and Peninsula, and we have to be adaptable. It has played a part in the way our Youth Alliance games have gone but we have to take our chances tonight.
“It is the one area where we can improve because we create chances. It’s now about being clinical and taking the chances we create.”
Tonight’s game at St James’ Park kicks-off at 7pm and admission is £5 for adults, £3 for over 65s and students, and £1 for under 18s.