darren way

Way relishes Arsenal clash

Argyle’s under-18s will get the chance to test themselves against some of the best players in the country when they take on Arsenal’s Academy on Saturday.

It’s the first pre-season fixture for Darren Way’s side after their game with Elburton Villa was called off midweek.

The last couple of years have been incredibly successful for the Academy, with several players making their first team debuts and even establishing themselves in Argyle’s starting line-up.

Mike Cooper, Luke Jephcott and Ryan Law were all regulars in Ryan Lowe’s side, with Ollie Tomlinson, Brandon Pursall and Finley Craske making their debuts in the 2020/21 campaign.

Darren feels that the hard work he, his staff and players have been putting in over the past few seasons is paying off and Saturday is an opportunity to prove themselves against one of the best.

He said “It’s a fixture that we are all looking forward to. Its going to be a very tough game.

“The players are a very competitive group and to go up against bigger, better and stronger players it will give them a good test as to where they think they are.

“They want to go and prove themselves that they can play at a higher level, I think that’s what motivates players.”

The under-18s team won the Merit League One title last season and are hoping to build on the success of recent years again this campaign.

Darren said, “With academies it’s got to be driven from the top and I feel that’s certainly the case from the owner to the gaffer, to Neil Dewsnip [Director of Football], to all the staff. There is a really good connection there.

“With the game against Parkway and the gaffer giving our younger players the opportunity and I don’t think he would do that if he didn’t feel they were ready to face that challenge.”

The first-team’s pre-season game with Plymouth Parkway last week also saw 10 players who have either come through the academy or are currently in the youth set up feature, with the majority of the eleven in the second half younger players.

The performance of all of the under-18s on show at Bolitho Park was something Darren was really pleased with.

He said, “It’s been probably my most rewarding since I’ve been at the football club. I felt Parkway was the first time that I could sit there, look at the players and how far they have come in such a short space of time.

“They held their own, they didn’t let us down.”

Saturday’s game with Arsenal under-18s kicks off at lunchtime but will be held behind closed doors due to EFL guidance.