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Academy on FA Youth Cup trail

Our Academy team begin their FA Youth Cup campaign with a third round tie at Cheltenham Town tonight.

Cheltenham play in the South-West Division of the Football League Youth Alliance and beat Maidenhead 8-0 and AFC Wimbledon 5-2 to reach the third round.

We kick-off at Whaddon Road at 7pm with the tie decided on the night and the winners facing a trip to West Ham in round four.

“There is a lot of history and tradition attached to the FA Youth Cup,” said Academy Manager, John McDermott.

“Sometimes it’s possibly over-hyped by people, but whether it’s Tottenham, Liverpool, Burnley or Cheltenham, every team wants to do well in this competition.

"For the First Years, it’s their first opportunity at this competition they’ve heard so much about and for the Second Years, it’s last-chance saloon.

“Is it the toughest competition? I’d argue that some of the international tournaments we go to are tougher, but in terms of opportunities for the lads to showcase their talents, it’s vitally important.”

John was quick to stress that the Academy shouldn’t just be judged on how they perform in the FA Youth Cup.

“Clubs can win it and not necessarily produce more players than teams that go out in the third round,” he explained.

“I was talking to Steven Caulker about it and he went out in the third round at Port Vale in a team that included Jake Livermore and Andros Townsend. So it always has to be seen in context.

“That’s not an excuse, because we want to do well. If we win, we’ll have the chance to go and play West Ham at Upton Park and then hopefully play at White Hart Lane.”

John expects a tough test from Cheltenham. “We go from playing against the likes of Barcelona and Anderlecht in the NextGen to Cheltenham, the first time we’ve played them and they will want to turn us over.

“It’s a huge incentive for them. They know they are not playing against Gallas, Caulker, Bale, Defoe and Adebayor, they are playing against lads from North London who are in the same position as them, trying to get somewhere in the game.

“We have to go there, try to impose our style on the game and it will be a real test of our toughness.”