Stevenage Under-18s are back in FA Youth Cup action tomorrow night, Monday 2nd November, when they travel to Aveley in the first round.
Last year Boro's youngsters made it through to the third round after home wins against Needham Market (4-3) and Wealdstone (6-0) before taking Everton to extra-time at The Lamex Stadium in an eventual 2-1 defeat. From that squad the likes of Ben Kennedy, Jack Storer and Ryan Johnson have since featured for the first team, with second-year scholars Matt Smyth and Nathan Kerr also involved in the first team squad this season.
Academy manager Robbie O'Keefe looked ahead to the game in yesterday's match day programme and said it won't be an easy game.
“It’s a tough draw. We went and watched them play against Royston in the previous round and they came through after extra time. In fairness it could have been 11-10, there were that many chances. The pitch there isn’t ideal for us and it’ll level things out. It’s a different set of demands on the day but it’s our job to get the players ready for it.
“The FA Youth Cup is always special for kids, it’s what they all want to play in. Whilst we did well last year, I don’t think it really matters what that progression was like – it’s about what they can do this year. For second years it’ll be their last go, for the first years it’ll be their first experience and for the new Irish kids it’s magical for them too.
“We’ll be prepared right. If you’re a good player and have any aspiration to have a career in the game, then this FA Youth Cup tie won’t be your biggest game. We encourage them to kick on and look for the next one.”
Boosting the Under-18s has been the arrival of four talented youngsters from the Republic of Ireland. Telling us more about them, Robbie says, “All four have come from St Kevin’s Boys FC, who we have a great relationship with. Liam Brady is a central midfielder and younger brother of Norwich’s Robbie; Jamie Gray is a centre-forward and a proven goal-scorer; Mickey Cregan is another goal scorer and a great kid who has represented his country at Under-17 level and scored twice against West Brom academy recently and three against Malta; and Luke Slater is a right-midfielder / right-back who has settled in well. They’re all good players."
The FA Youth Cup first round tie at Mill Field (Mill Road, Aveley, Essex, RM15 4SJ) kicks off at 7.45pm and tickets cost £5 adults, £2 concessions and just £1 for Under-18s.
The winner of this first round tie will face either Cambridge United or Hayes & Yeading away in the second round. Watch highlights below as Stevenage scored six against Wealdstone in last year's second round.