I HAVE always enjoyed going to watch FA Youth Cup matches, both as a fan and reporter.

The chance to see the next generation of talent coming through and hopefully be at the start of what may turn out to be a road to the top is something that always gives me a buzz.

But I think the FA Youth Cup is in danger of going down the same road as it’s big brother the FA Cup and being devalued.

Going back in history, winning the biggest prize at under-18s’ level was revered. It was a sign of how good a club’s production line was from schoolboy footballer to potential first-teamer.

It was also an opportunity for a club’s youngsters to sample a taste of the big time – to play at an Old Trafford or Anfield and enjoy the big-match experience.

But there are some teams now who opt to play their ties away from first-team stadia.

In recent years Manchester United have played some early-round ties at non-league Altrincham FC – where some of their reserve games are held.

More recently, Manchester City’s semi-final first-leg victory against Stoke was held at the Blues’ academy ground.

While there was a decent crowd in attendance, it is a shame those young players were not given the chance to grace the main turf at the Etihad.

Part of a player’s development is not just their footballing talent but also nurturing the mentality of a top star and seeing how they respond to the big occasion.

They are not going to learn much if they do not get that experience.

It is an important aspect for me that should be a stipulation from FA chiefs – it not only helps players but also gives parents and children an affordable way to watch football at the main stadium and allow youngsters to get the football bug early on.

If you look back at when Wanderers U18s had their run to the last eight four years ago, those players got to experience big nights under lights at White Hart Lane – and that incredible 8-4 win – and Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.

Zach Clough, who now calls Forest home, and Rob Holding, now at Arsenal, were both in that squad and I am sure it gave them a taste of what could come.

It can only have helped. It will have been the same for the Manchester United side that won the FA Youth Cup against Sheffield United in 2011 in front a combined attendance more than 50,000 over the two legs.

That side that won a 10th Youth Cup for the Red Devils included the likes of Paul Pogba, Michael Keane, Jesse Lingard and Bolton loanee Tom Thorpe as captain.

Those players have not done too badly for themselves in the game and their grounding in big matches as teenagers can only have helped their progression.

It’s important the FA make sure the competition keeps being held in high esteem and reverting to all games being at first-team stadia would be a good way to start – for players and fans alike.