FA YOUTH CUP PREVIEW: Can Blues kids be first team stars?
- Credit: James Ager
THEY are the lifeblood of the club, the class of 2013, and could move one step closer to writing their own names into Portman Road folklore tonight.
Russell Osman’s talented crop of under-18 players travel to Pride Park to face Derby County (7pm kick-off) in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup, all too aware of the names that have gone before them.
Osman is one of several on a spectacular list of names to have represented Town’s much-celebrated youth set-up, and twice won the competition as a youngster with the Blues.
Others include Alan Brazil, Eric Gates, John Wark, George Burley and more recently, James Scowcroft, Kieron Dyer and Darren Bent.
Now, the likes of Byron Lawrence, pictured, Jack Marriott, Michael Crowe and David October have the chance to further enhance the club’s reputation for producing young talent, impress Town boss Mick McCarthy, and set up a mouth-watering home clash with Manchester City in round five.
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“Ipswich Town has a good reputation of performing well in the Youth Cup and the young players know that it means a lot to the club and is important,” said Osman, who, along with the players, will be based at the FA’s new home of football in Burton, St George’s Park, ahead of the game.
“They walk around the club and see the picture of the 2005-winning team on the wall. If they don’t know about the club’s history now, they never will.”
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Town go into the game on the back of a 6-2 home defeat to Charlton in the U18 Premier League but boast a trio of forwards in Marriott, Mark Timlin and Tom Winter with goals in their locker.
Marriott has plundered 10 goals for the under-18s this season, as well as scoring four for the under-21s, while Winter has five and Timlin four (plus one for the U21s) this season.
“It’s quite difficult at the moment to gain a feel as to how the team is doing as some of the players are representing the under-21 team and we are seeing players from the under-16s moving up. It’s quite difficult to play a settled side,” said Osman.
“But I am quite happy and if we perform well as a team then we have a good chance of going through.
“But we also need our attacking players to be firing on all cylinders.
“I am sure one or two will be in Mick McCarthy’s thoughts and when the first-team has acquired enough points this season, then I am sure he will look at certain players a bit longer and harder.”
As for Derby, they will be without 17-year-old wonderkid and Rams’ first-team regular, Will Hughes, who has attracted interest from the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham.
Hughes has made 31 appearances for the Rams this season, scoring twice, and also received his first England under-21 cap last year.
They will, however, be able to call upon the services of Mason Bennett, who at 15 years and 99 days became the Rams’ youngest-ever first-team debutant.
He is also the youngest player to have scored for Derby’s first-team, opening his account in the FA Cup win at home to Tranmere earlier this month.