Madejski Stadium has witnessed some exciting evenings in the FA Youth Cup – our 2017/18 campaign begins on Thursday evening at home against Millwall, and all supporters are invited to come along and support our youngsters!
David Dodds, the Under-18s boss, has overseen teams that have made significant headway into the competition in the past – including a semi-final appearance four seasons ago! And he knows all about the drama that comes along with it…
“It’s an unforgiving competition – it’s all on the night,” Dodds said. “When we got to the semi-final a few years ago, the early rounds were difficult. We played teams that gave us problems.
“We went to penalties against Crewe, and then we took Liverpool to penalties in the quarter-final. You have to be prepared for a bit of everything.
“We always talk about the Youth Cup being as close to making your first-team debut as a lot of these players will have had. There’s a lot of hype around it – the management and hierarchy of the club might be there and looking at what talent we’ve got.
“There’s a certain amount of pressure, and sometimes how they react to that pressure tells you a lot about those players as well.”
Several players from the Under-18 age group have already made Under-23 appearances already this season… a number have already joined that older age-group on a de facto permanent basis.
But Dodds intends to name as strong a squad as is eligible in pursuit of making it to the next stage…
“It’s remarkable – all through the season you’ll have four or five players injured or sick… and all of a sudden the Youth Cup comes up and everybody’s fit!” he laughed.
“They’re in really good spirits – they’re all really lively and chomping at the bit. It’s difficult to select a team.
“When it’s the Youth Cup, every team that plays in it – including the big boys like Chelsea – put their best team out. We’re like no other team; we’ll bring lads back in from the Under-23s and go with what we regard as our strongest team, and see where that takes us.
“It’s a big event, and those players will all be up for it. That experience they have had up with the U23s will put them in good stead.
“It’ll be a difficult game against Millwall. Scott Fitzgerald always turns a good team out and they’ll be very organised, and they’ll take some breaking down.
“They have a record of producing players at their club, so we’ll be at full stretch on the night. But we’re hoping to overcome that and get a positive result.”
Entry costs £3 Adults and £1 Concessions, with all entry through Gate 7 in the East Stand. Click the banner below for more information.