IT is a big night for Burton Albion’s Academy tonight as our youth team travel to St Mary’s Stadium to take on Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.
Having defeated Worcester City and Mansfield Town in the first and second rounds at the Pirelli Stadium, the Brewers travelled to Stoke City’s Clayton Wood training ground just over a week ago to take on the category one side.
Albion took the lead twice through Charlie Williams and Luke Redfern, only to concede an equaliser both times. But a well-worked routine, headed home by Callum Niven, in extra time proved the decisive moment.
The scenes of celebration at the end of 120 minutes demonstrated Albion’s pride in making the fourth round - where they face another tough test, and an incredible experience, at the home of the Saints tonight (7pm).
“We’re really looking forward to the fixture,” said Professional Development Phase Lead Coach Sam Rose.
“It’s good that we’ve had a few days to get prepared and this is a good opportunity for players and staff.
“Southampton comfortably beat Coventry in the last round, and Coventry are a Category Two side. They’re no mugs themselves and we know it’s going to be a tough game.
“But it’s the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup. It’s a long trip and will test the players and their professionalism, their ability to travel.
“For the lads, it’s about being the best version of themselves on the night. A few of the Southampton players will make the first team and we’d say the same about us.
"The challenge now is to find some consistency as a group and individually but I’ve no doubt they’ll be up for it."
Academy Manager Dan Robinson says the experience of playing at St Mary’s will prove a fantastic memory for Albion’s Academy charges as they look to push on to the first-team.
“It’s going to be a great experience for all the players,” said Robinson.
“The chairman (Ben Robinson) has been good enough to put on the first-team coach for the game, so it’s good for the boys to experience what its like to go on an away game with food as well.
“An opportunity to play in a stadium of that calibre against a top Academy in this country is brilliant for all involved.
“These experiences are great memory-makers for players and staff.
“It’s a chance for these players to follow in the footsteps of Ciaran Gilligan, Joe Sbarra, Reece Hutchinson and Ben Fox in playing in this competition in recent years. It’s a great opportunity for them.”
Academy Coach Shaun Barker says that the Stoke victory, and the manner of it, can give the Brewers belief heading into tonight’s game.
“You never know in games like this - the lads are super excited about this opportunity,” said Barker.
“The journey they’ve been on, passing three teams to get to this stage, is great but they’ve got to do the right things (tonight).
“It’s the closest thing for these lads apart from being in and around the first team to get this experience.
“This is the FA Cup for this level - it’s that magical journey you can go on. We’ve seen lower-league clubs and semi-pro clubs going on to be giant killers. But I don’t think that’s what this is for us.
“Tonight they’ve got to be at their best but it’s about enjoying it. We’re there to win and we believe we can get a result, we’re here because of our brilliant performances in this cup run. It’s a special occasion they have to thrive off, and enjoy the pressure.
"Going on, grinding it out and getting the winner at Stoke gives them that reassurance that if they do believe they can make the next round, anything is possible."