Youth team manager wants his side to play without fear against Middlesbrough in the FA Youth Cup tonight at Roots Hall.
Blues set up the clash with a comfortable 6-0 success over Leverstock Green and a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Barnet, but Category One Academy Boro will represent a step-up in calibre for Duncan’s teenage charges.
However, Duncan has insisted that the squad have been focussing on their own preparation and are excited about challenging themselves against the Barclays U18s Premier League North Division table-toppers.
“It’s fantastic for the Club, for the Academy and for the players,” he said in an interview for tonight’s matchday programme. “Middlesbrough are a good side but we’re at home, and that’ll give us an advantage. We won’t fear them.
“We don’t fear anyone, but the pressure is off us a little bit and it’s more on them; they’re the side that’s got to come and do the job, so let them come and have a go. That’s what we’re telling the players; we’ve just got to go out and do what we do every week."
And Duncan also believes that the squad will thrive on the occasion and the atmosphere that will be generated by a big Roots Hall crowd: “The fear factor isn’t there for us now. They’ve all had a couple of games at Roots Hall now, and the last one against Barnet has really set this up for them,” he confirmed.
“They players will want to sample that atmosphere there again, and the more fans that can come along will make all the better. It’s an occasion; The FA Youth Cup is a special occasion for these lads.
“They get two years to play in it, and then that’s it, they can never play in it again. They can go on and have careers playing in The FA Cup, but the Youth Cup is always a special thing for these boys at their age and also for their development as players.
“They like playing there, they like the fact that it’s a big pitch, it suits the way we play and hopefully they’ll turn up on the night,” he concluded.
Southend United vs. Middlesbrough in the Third Round of The FA Youth Cup takes place at Roots Hall at 7:30pm this evening. Admission is £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.