City assistant positive ahead of Blackburn tie
With a place in the quarter-final of the inaugural Under-21 Premier League Cup on offer when Blackburn Rovers visit St James Park on Tuesday, Grecians assistant manager Rob Edwards is full of praise for the young starlets that have already made great waves in the competition.
City’s progress in the competition owes a lot to a culture of education and development that runs throughout the club, and Robbo has nothing but compliments for the effort and approach of the young crop.
A 3-2 victory at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace and a 2-0 home win over Southampton – a club noted particularly for its prolific ability to produce quality young footballers – have had City fans drooling at the promise that the young players hold for the future.
And now with Rovers in town in Tuesday, Edwards has no doubt that the young Grecians will do the club proud again.
“They’ve got to go in on the front foot and give it their best – and if their best is good enough, we’ll be delighted,” explained Robbo. “I don’t think they could have given much more in the previous two games – it’s an exceptional group to work with, as we’ve played in the Devon Bowl against much smaller teams and there is never a doubt in their attitude. They’re such an honest group and they all want to do well.
“Sometimes they’ll get it wrong in terms of their understanding of the game, but in terms of their attitude and application, they’re a fantastic group to work with. I’ve never had any issues – day-to-day in training they do the best they can.
“The players have come through a system where they have been told how they want their young players to act on and off the pitch, and by the time you’re playing for the under-21s, it is habit based on education. You sometimes see young players at other clubs strutting around and it drives you mad – I don’t think you’ll find too many of our players like that.”
Rovers currently prop up the Under-21 Premier League, but Edwards is fully aware of the challenge that they will bring on the long journey from Lancashire and the well-earned reputation of their youth programme.
He continued: “I know all about their set-up – I lived down the road from Blackburn in Preston, and their Academy is state-of-the-art and has had a lot of money put into it. It is one of the most progressive academies in the north-west.
“Even though their first-team hasn’t done so well over the past few years, they have got a heck of a lot of players through their system and into their first team. They are an academy that have got a very good reputation, so we’ll expect a good Blackburn team.”
The competition is in its first year, and for City, it has been a real blessing to be able to give young players competitive fixtures against other clubs. Rob feels that the exposure to knock-out football has helped to give a little more exposure to a talented group of lads.
And in addition, he praised the club’s policy of holding onto players during those vital years in their early-twenties, to make sure no-one gets cast by the wayside before they have been given every chance to succeed.
“One or two of the younger players that have played in the previous rounds are playing in the first team at the moment, but I still think they’re looking forward to the game,” continued Rob. “Of course, the priority is the first team, but a cup competition like this becomes quite important.
“At the start of it, there weren’t too many of the lads in the first team and the competition has given them a chance to put themselves on the map a bit and to show Tis what they can do. They’ve used that to get on a run of form, which has given them the chance to get into the first-team squad.
“Exeter City give their young players a little bit longer than most clubs, which I think is of benefit – some players take a little bit of time get there. You can only get in the team if there’s an opportunity, and sometimes there isn’t one – so players get released because they didn’t have that opportunity.
“At this club we wait and make sure every player gets their chance. We’re very fair, and we don’t discard anybody without plenty of hard work and thought.”
Tickets for the Under-21 Premier League Cup tie against Blackburn are priced at £7 for adults and over-60s and £3 for under-18s and students. All admission will be paid on entry through the Stadium Way turnstiles to the Flybe Stand.