Academy manager says youngsters have nothing to fear
Exeter City v Southampton
Under-21 Premier League Cup
St James Park
Wednesday 20th November 2013, 7pm
Ahead of Exeter City’s Under-21 Premier League Cup game Round of 32 game on Wednesday evening, Academy manager Simon Hayward feels that the young Grecians have nothing to fear when they take on their Southampton counterparts.
City beat Torquay United 4-1 at St James Park in their first qualifier, and upset an experienced Crystal Palace team at Selhurst Park in the last round to secure an attractive tie against a side with a huge reputation for developing talent.
In recent seasons the Saints have nurtured talents at Staplewood including Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and – most recently – England’s rookie striker Adam Lallana. Exeter City midfielder Arron Davies graduated from the Saints’ Academy.
For Hayward, the young City players that have learnt the trade at the Cat & Fiddle have earned the right to be courageous, by having secured some great results and eye-catching performances down the years. Exeter City are the only League 2 club left in the competition at this stage, and he is confident that they have the capability to reach the final 16.
“I’m looking forward to the game from a personal perspective,” said Hayward. “I’m interested and intrigued to see how our young players will cope against what should be good opposition.
“I don’t think we’ll have any idea what sort of team Southampton will put out until they name their team here on Wednesday night. But one way or another we’ll expect it to be a challenge, and one way or another we’ll expect our lads to be capable of meeting that challenge.
“The first priority for the boys will be to win the game. I don’t think our players have got anything to be afraid of. Whether we’ve played against Reading, Crewe, Cardiff, Man City or Crystal Palace – we’ve played against lots of so-called bigger clubs and outperformed them and won games.
“That won’t happen every time, but we’ve got nothing to be worried about. If our players turn up with the right mindset and perform well, I’m sure we’ll be okay.”
The group of players that have made their way to the Round of 32 are largely made up of footballers that have developed together over the course of their upbringing at the Academy. But even including those that youngsters that have been added more latterly, there is a close-knit and harmonious vibe amongst the players.
For Hayward, that is part of the reason why the group have enjoyed such a prolific season to date – as well as their commitment to playing football in the right way.
He continued: “For this group, results become more important – that under-21 group are one step away from the first team and are trying to earn a place. It’s a results business and when there is three points at stake on a Saturday, results matter.”
“The grounding, education and upbringing they have in the Academy gives them a good base, and then when they step into that under-21 group Rob Edwards, Steve Perryman and Paul Tisdale are able to educate them on what decisions they have to make in certain situations.
“We’ve got strong characters with a professional attitude. They understand that although it is an individual career, it is played within team game and that you can’t be successful on your own.
“You need at least ten of your mates out there on the pitch with you, and there’s a whole squad that work together over the course of the season. They recognise success for the team is likely to mean success for the individual. They pull together and help each other.”
Exeter City U21 v Southampton U21 kicks off at 7pm on Wednesday 20th November. Entry is £5 for adults and £1 for all concessions, with all entry being through the Stadium Way turnstiles into the Flybe Stand.