Youth heroes aim to become history boys
WHITES Under-18s coach David Lee says his young players are relishing the chance to become the first Wanderers side to make the FA Youth Cup semi-finals in more than 50 years when they travel to face Nottingham Forest tonight (7pm).
After a stunning 8-4 triumph at Tottenham Hotspur in round five, Lee and Tony Kelly’s teenage outfit have reached the quarter-finals of the iconic tournament for the first time since 2009 – and only the third time in the club’s history.
A win tonight would equal their best-ever campaign when they went out to Manchester United’s Busby babes over two legs in 1956.
The current crop have given everyone at the club high hopes, however, with wins over Portsmouth and Reading prior to the Spurs demolition job that saw Thomas Walker and Tom Youngs both grab hat-tricks.
And while Forest will provide a stern test after three successive home wins in the competition so far – against Cardiff (2-1), Rochdale (2-1) and Huddersfield (3-2) – Lee believes his young stars have what it takes to win at the City Ground.
He told The Bolton News: “The lads trained well this week and are all buzzing for the game.
“The Spurs result has given them so much confidence and they are relishing this Forest clash.
“We know it won’t be easy and they will know all about us because their coach and assistant watched us at Tottenham.
“But there is no fear factor for us; we know they will be ready but so will we and we have a great group of players keen to do well for the club.”
The opportunity for the U18s is such that Lee and Kelly rested the players at the weekend and handed the club’s U16s the chance to play away at Reading in an Elite Group fixture they lost 3-0.
It was a good learning curve for that next crop and Lee admits he wanted to preserve the energies of the older players for tonight’s trip.
He expects to field the same XI that humbled Spurs with Niall Maher shaking off a knock from that game to hopefully be involved in the East Midlands against a Forest side under the stewardship of lead development coach, and former Premier League defender, Steve Chettle.
Lee added: “We played the U16s at Reading to have a look at them and also to protect the older lads for tonight.
“It will be the same team that played at Spurs with Niall Maher the only worry beforehand after a knock in that tie but he should be okay.
“We expect a tough game and Forest are good at set pieces.
“But I don’t think they will be as technically good as Spurs, so if we can play our game, and not respect our opponents too much, like we did at Spurs early on, then we have a great chance of getting through again.”
The winners of tonight’s tie, which will be decided on the night, will be at home in the first leg of the semi-final to either Everton or Norwich, who beat Birmingham last night.