Southend United's youth team coach Dave Huzzey believes there is "something special" at his disposal as his squad prepare to take on MK Dons in the First Round of The FA Youth Cup on Tuesday evening...
Huzzey's charges travel to Milton Keynes seeking to set up a Second Round tie at Barnet or Wingate & Finchley, and they do so having registered three consecutive victories on the road in the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference.
“The boys are confident,” Huzzey revealed. “We’re all confident. I think it’s going to be a really good game as it is first and second playing each other. When the draw was made, it was something we spoke about. Every single lad that I’ve coached playing in the youth team loves playing in The FA Youth Cup and thinks about playing in it a lot.
“The challenge for us was that we wanted to be second when we played them. We knew it was possible because we knew we had Cambridge coming up. We’ve achieved what we set out to do, we’re all really confident about what we’ve got in that changing room and we’re excited."
This will be the third time in the last four seasons that Blues U18s have come up against the divisional leaders in the competition, following last year's defeat to Leyton Orient and a superb 1-0 win over Barnet at Roots Hall with ten men in 2014/15. However, Huzzey isn't fazed by the opposition.
“We’ve played Barnet, when they were top of the table, Leyton Orient when they were top of the table and now we’re playing MK Dons and they’re top of the table, but I don’t think who you play has a big bearing on things. It’s about what we do, and we’re confident with this group of players.
“I’ve said from the start of the season that we’ve got something special going on here. I really believe that and I think the boys are all buying into what we want, which makes such a difference. We’re getting positive results because of that so, going into the game, we know our opponents will be difficult, but we’ll be focussing on our boys and our boys have definitely got enough to perform on that stage.”
And the youth team coach wants everyone to get behind the effort as they look to follow in the footsteps of those 2014/15 and 2015/16 squads that reached the Third Round and took on - and challenged - Premier Academy League opposition.
“The boys are excited. We’ve got two days to prepare and that’s more than enough because these boys prepare themselves every day. It won’t be about those two days, it’ll be about what we’ve done all season and that has been very, very good. The FA Youth Cup is a prestigious tournament and the boys are all really excited to play in it. Hopefully we’ll get the result and performance that we want.
“It’s special because you’re playing in a stadium. I don’t think you can get a better stadium to play in at this stage of The FA Youth Cup, so to play at Stadium MK is excellent. I also think there's hype around it, where we’ve seen previous runs like Middlesbrough and Blackburn, and Liverpool a few years ago, and the boys want to emulate that.
“I’ll have a few players knocking on my door asking why they’re not involved or not playing, but that’s something I have to cope with every year and something the boys have to cope with every year. I will be explaining to the boys that it is a squad effort, and that goes down to every U16 that has played in the U16s let alone the ones that have played in our team.
“I will need everybody there supporting it and backing it, whether they are playing, on the bench or not in the squad. It will be a brilliant occasion for the club; hopefully we’ll get a few fans there to see how we get on and then we’ll get the positive performance that we crave."