Southend United U18s make the short trip to east London on Thursday evening to take on Leyton Orient in the First Round Proper of The FA Youth Cup.
Blues go into the clash at the Breyer Group Stadium having won their previous five matches, and seven of their last eight games, but youth team coach Dave Huzzey has stressed the importance of focussing on each fixture as it comes ahead of the clash.
“The one thing that myself and the players have got to continue focussing on is the process,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it is a friendly against a college side that come in and play against us or an FA Youth Cup tie, the importance is the process of these boys becoming professional footballers.”
One of those five consecutive victories was a 5-0 triumph against the O’s at their training ground in Woodford in the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference as Jon Benton netted twice and Freddy Eastwood Jnr, Charlie Kelman and Matt Rush also found the target.
However, Huzzey doesn’t believe that match has any more significance than any other recent result: “It will be a very tough game. We know loads about Orient, but I think it’s important that you get as much information as you can about your opponents. We can’t lose sight of the main thing, and that’s us.”
“Regardless of who we are playing and what competition it is, it’s about us as a process and what we are doing. Each game has no greater or littler importance than the next game; Luton had had no greater importance than Bournemouth, and that had no greater importance than the FA Youth Cup game.”
The games against the Hatters – which saw Blues lead 7-0 midway through the second period before wrapping up an 8-3 success – and Bournemouth on Saturday, when Southend fought back from an early deficit to win 3-1 and reach the southern section semi-finals of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup, have given the squad supreme confidence.
Huzzey is keen to harness that confidence and earn a Second Round tie against Charlton Athletic or Whitehawk: “Although we are excited because the boys love this time of year because of the cup competitions, really and truthfully it’s the process and making sure they get different experiences.”
“It’s exciting for them because it’s not a windy field or an open pitch, but it’s got a stand round it and nice changing rooms and that is a different experience.”
“Experience is the word that we’ve got to keep latching onto because that’s something we want them to get. How we control that experience will be crucial to how we perform in the tie.”
“Take nothing away from the magic of The FA Youth Cup and the fact that these boys look forward to it from the start of the season, but it is about managing expectations. We’re going about it like any other game and looking forward to it,” he concluded.
Kick-off on Thursday is at 7:30pm and admission is priced at £5 for adults, £3 for season ticket holders of both clubs and concessions, and is free for U16s.