Southend United U18s go into tonight’s FA Youth Cup Second Round tie against Charlton Athletic with youth team coach Dave Huzzey in a confident mood.
Blues head into the fixture with nine wins in their last eleven matches in all competitions, including a dramatic First Round victory after extra time against Leyton Orient. The prize for that success is this game against the Addicks, who comfortably disposed of Whitehawk in the First Round.
Huzzey knows all about the threat their hosts will hold: “We’ve had them watched quite a few times and we’ve played them a few times in pre-season, although funnily enough not this year. In my eyes they are one of the top Category Two Academies, if not the top one,” he said.
“I think their record speaks for itself in terms of the players they’ve produced. It’s an exciting tie for us. It’s a big tie and that’s what we want to play in. The players are excited and so are the staff, but we’re just going to treat it like any other game.”
The clash is taking place at Welling United’s Park View Road ground rather than the Valley, but Huzzey believes this could enhance the atmosphere. He was particularly pleased with the backing the side got as they battled back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to defeat Orient in the previous round.
“Although we try to keep everything the same for The FA Youth Cup internally, externally it’s different because you play in a stadium and the boys are excited about it. The fact that there could be a crowd there is something that we hope for because it sets them up for playing in the league or in a cup competition for the first team,” he claimed.
“We really hope for that and at Orient I thought the Southend fans were really loud right at the end. We hope that they can create a similar atmosphere that the did at the Breyer Group Stadium. If the fans can come along it’s not just seeing the likes of Charlie Kelman, who they have now seen in the first team and know a little bit about, but the boys like Matt Rush, who is the top goalscorer for the youth team this year and is putting in some really good work.”
“It goes a little bit unnoticed in terms of the supporters because they don’t get to see him, so it would be good for the fans to come down and watch the first- and second-years from a really successful Academy pitting their wits against a Category Two side. It’s a League One fixture and if we can get as many there as possible, it would be much-appreciated by everyone at the Academy.”
And, with that potential backing for his squad, Huzzey feels that the teenage Shrimpers are capable of causing an upset if they can put in the type of performance that they have produced in the past: “When you look at previous years against Middlesbrough and at Blackburn we’ve come really close,” he said.
“Taking Saturday’s defeat out of the equation, our boys have shown a real mental toughness and have shown a character that I haven’t seen from a youth team side for a long, long time. If we can pick up where we left off before Saturday and perform with character and attitude, I do believe we can win the game.”