Ricky Duncan says the FA Youth Cup is closest thing to first-team football for his players
Southend United’s Head of Youth will be treating the club’s upcoming FA Youth Cup first round proper tie away to Maidstone United or Sutton United just the same as he would a meeting against a Football League side.
Blues were drawn to face the winners of next Monday’s third qualifying round tie in Friday’s draw, but despite both clubs plying their trade in the Ryman Youth League, Duncan knows that his squad will need to take the test seriously.
“You’ve got to pay these teams respect; we’ll treat them just the same as if we we’re going to play Derby County or Coventry City. I remember going all the way down to Ramsgate for a game in the competition a few years ago as preparation,” he said after the draw.
“We’ll treat them with the respect that they deserve and we’ll go and watch their games and we’ll prepare for the game as best we can. We’ll make sure the boys know who their danger players are and what they’re about, so that when we go down there we’ve left no stone unturned and it’s just 11 v 11 on the pitch doing their job on the night.”
Duncan has presided over some special evenings in the competition during his eight years at the club, including memorable victories over higher-ranking outfits Coventry, Derby and Stoke City. Twice Blues have reached the last sixteen, the best runs in the club’s history.
“I always look forward to the FA Youth Cup first round. It’s the closest thing to first-team football in terms of preparation for the game where the players put an emphasis on the win, and we’ve always done well in it,” he revealed.
“We’ve always had good games in it. Things like going up to Liverpool, even though we lost, are what you want to do. I’m looking forward to it and the kids are looking forward to it. The FA Youth Cup brings that little bit of magic, even for them. The FA Youth Cup and the FA Cup are always a tradition in this country; everyone wants to see them and wants to go along and be part of them.”