Bolton Wanderers starlets hoping for another exciting FA Youth Cup adventure
WANDERERS Under-18s coach David Lee says his young team go into tonight’s FA Youth Cup third round tie against Sheffield United at the Reebok Stadium in confident mood after a first league win of the season last weekend.
The young Whites beat Wolves 4-1 at Lostock on Saturday to end their winless start to the FA U18 Premier League season.
And ahead of a return to a competition where the side shone last season in reaching the quarter-finals, Lee says that first win could not have come at a better time.
He said: “That first win will give the lads a big boost.
“The results have been disappointing, of course, but the performances have not been as bad as those results suggest in the main. I think the players will relish tonight’s game now and give a good account of themselves. It is a fantastic opportunity for them to express themselves, especially playing at the Reebok.”
Last season’s run included a memorable 8-4 win at Tottenham in the last 16 and the road to an agonising extra-time defeat at Nottingham Forest began with victory at the Reebok a year ago against Portsmouth.
Lee and his fellow youth coach Tony Kelly would love a repeat run this season and knows the experience of those involved last season can help. But he will have to do without the experience of Tom Walker, who netted a hat-trick in that win at Spurs, as well as Liam Gibson and goalkeeper Harry Campbell who are all sidelined.
Having them around the squad, however, will help the younger first-year scholars, according to Lee.
He knows it can be daunting playing at the Reebok for the first time but expects his players to rise to the occasion with the help of those who bhave been there before.
Lee added: “It is a blow not having Tom (Walker) available but the younger players can learn from his experience last season.
“Being around the squad, he can help guide them.
“To be honest, I think most will relish the big occassion – I know I did as a young player.
“It is not completely new to the players who go to the Reebok to watch the first-team. It will be different being in the home dressing room but they will be ready for the night.
“We have taken them down to have a look around before the game to familiarise themselves with the place.
“I don’t expect them to have any fear or freeze but they cannot underestimate it either.
“They are all capable and they know we have faith in them.
“We hade a great run last years and it was exciting and gave the lads some good publicity.”
With several out injured, it will be a young side that takes to the field against the Blades – including young keeper Will Jaaskelainen, the son of Wanderers legend Jussi.
He will be one of up to five under-16 players in the matchday squad but Lee is confident they can do well against a Sheffield side he watched in the previous round.
He said: “I know there is attention on Will because of his dad but we are very realistic in the academy and there is no pressure from us.
“Having a father figure like Jussi I’m sure will help Will; his dad knows all about the ups and downs of football and can give advice.
“Will has been around professionals so I don’t expect him to be overawed about playing at the Reebok.
“Sheffield United won’t be easy opposition – they won 9-0 in the last round.
“Kels and I went to watch but it was hard to judge being against non-league Worcester City and winning 9-0.
“I am a great believer in concentrating on our own game, though, and that’s what we will be talling the lads.”
Tonight’s tie kicks off at 7pm with admission £3 for adults, £1 concessions.