Whilst the senior side will find out who they’ll play in the next round of the FA Cup this evening, Fulham’s youngsters have a big fifth round tie in the FA Youth Cup at Portman Road tonight.
Ipswich will be a tough proposition, especially after they knocked out the holders Arsenal in the last round. Conor Wickham will get plenty of attention, but the home side have an impressive set of young talent befitting their status of one of the country’s top developers of young footballers.
There seems to be a real sense of optimism about Fulham’s academy lately and Roy Keane’s certainly not expecting an easy ride:
It’s a very, very tough game. Fulham are very, very strong in terms of their youths this year and we should know that because we played them in the league last week and lost 6-1.
It’s no good beating Arsenal on the Tuesday night [in the FA Youth Cup] and then losing your league match the following weekend. But they’ve paid for that, don’t you worry about that.
It would be very Fulhamish to go out tonight after thumping the same opponents last week, although Gary Brazil cautions against taking anything for granted:
It’s the same opposition but the teams will be very different on Tuesday night. There were changes from the Ipswich team that beat Arsenal and we weren’t going to put our Youth Cup Team out against them last weekend.
We treat them as though they’re the First Team in terms of their preparation. The principle is the same; staying away the night before, preparing and training. A lot of the people involved in our Academy have experience of First Team football and the players have responded to that.
We’ve prepared really well for the last two rounds in our professional preparation and the way we’ve looked after the boys and in fairness to the players they’ve responded with committed performances. The real good preparation for Bolton was to go away for five days to the indoor tournament in Germany and put the boys in pressure situations when they have to win to go through to the next round.
We went out to Austria Vienna on penalties in that competition but going through that process, you can’t replicate that feeling when penalties are happening, you’ve got to score and the boys did very well in Germany but went out in sudden death. At the Reebok every player kept their cool and Marcus Bettinelli kept his cool in goal.
We’ve got hard work to do at Portman Road but the reward for Ipswich or ourselves will be a home fixture against Aston Villa or Millwall. They play on Friday night and I’ll be going up to watch that game. It’s an opportunity to go even further.