Adam Asghar has previewed his Under-18 side’s return to action on Wednesday night, as the young Lads finally take to the pitch again, facing Fulham at Eppleton.
The tie represents the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup, following victory over Swansea City last month – but due to a mixture of weather and other circumstances, the U18s are yet to play a fixture in 2023.
“We’re really looking forward to the Youth Cup game. It’s a prestigious competition at youth level and one we want to do well in,” Asghar said.
“Playing at the Stadium of Light in the last round was a great experience. It’s going to be another tough game against Fulham. We’re confident that if we play our style of play, I back the boys to do well.
“Fulham will always be a good team. All the teams we play against at Category One level will be good and have their own style. That’s the challenge we face with any competition. I wasn’t here the last time we played them, but I fully expect them to be tough. We know what the best version of ourselves is, and I’m confident we can put the performance in which gets us the desired result.”
The U18 Lead Coach is impressed with the way the youngsters have channelled their frustration at being unable to get back out on the pitch since facing Manchester United on December 20.
“The lads are frustrated, as are we as coaches to not have played in a month now.
“Everyone wants to play on a Saturday after training all week. It’s something that is out of our control, so the most important thing for myself and the players is to ensure we’re ready to put in the performances we need to.
“The boys are frustrated, but they’ve managed to harness that frustration into good focus and energy towards our training levels.”
With once again no game to be played for either the U18s or U21s this weekend – the U18s’ visit of Blackburn Rovers postponed due to a frozen playing surface – the two teams came together for a World Cup-style training tournament on Friday morning.
“The training tournament went really well. I think it’s always good to play against the U21s whether it’s in an 11v11 format, or smaller-sided games.
“It’s good to get some direct comparison and individual battles for player performance. It was a good exercise to see our younger lads go up against the U21s because that’s who they need to be challenging at the end of the day.
“Our younger boys need to look to be able to pick off the older lads and take their places – that’s their challenge, and that’s the environment that we’re in.”