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Our Under-18s kick-off their FA Premier Academy League campaign at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Our Under-18s kick-off their FA Premier Academy League campaign at Middlesbrough on Saturday.It’s a tough start for the lads against a team renowned for successfully promoting players from the Academy to the first team – squad members Downing, Davies, Bates, Cattermole, Johnson and McMahon are all former trainees – but it’s a challenge Alex Inglethorpe feels his youngsters are ready for.

“I would imagine Middlesbrough will be competitive, strong and a good footballing group. They have a great pedigree of producing players for the first team so it will be a great test to see how far we’ve come. It’s a test but we’re confident we can pass that test,” said Alex, who has set the bar high for his Academy group this season having lost just four league matches last term.

“Primarily, the aim of the Academy is to produce players for the teams above and realistically that’s more likely to be the development group with Clive Allen but we hope in time they will filter through to the first team,” added Alex.

“So our main aim is to give the players a solid base from which they can go forward, play for the reserves and improve their technique and tactical understanding of the game. If, as a bi-product of that, the team does well – because we want that as well – then all the better.

“We want to do better than last season, we’ve set our targets high and we think we can achieve those targets.

“One complete complete contrast to this time last season is that we’re looking good squad-wise, last year we were literally struggling to field a team. This season we’ve improved on that front and we’re only really missing Adam Smith because he sustained a knee injury.”