Exeter City under-18s coach Chad Gribble has praised the supporters for the way they have backed his young players this season ahead of tonight’s Youth Alliance Cup final against Wigan Athletic at St James Park.
The Grecians qualified for the final of the competition by beating Swindon Town, Bristol Rovers, Northampton Town and Southend United. Many of those games have been played at either Exeter City’s training ground or their opponent’s, but tonight’s final will be played at St James Park in front of what is expected to be a good crowd.
The Exeter City fans have come out in their numbers already this season to back the youngsters in an FA Youth Cup victory at home to Plymouth Argyle as well as three fixtures in the under-23 Premier League Cup.
“It is brilliant because the supporters are fully on board with the youth,” he said. “They are very aware of what type of football club this is. It is an opportunity club and we have been known for giving opportunities to young players and their support is absolutely brilliant.
“There is a real interest from supporters on the next generation of young players; who is coming through and what type of players they are. We appreciate their support as always and we love as many of them to be their tonight to spur us on in the game.”
Asked what it gives the young players to play in front of a crowd, Chad added: “Real life pressure, it is simple as that. Everything about the under-18s and youth team football is about developing players to be ready for first-team football.
“So, if the crowd is a bit bigger, then brilliant. If the pressure is a little bit more than it normally would be, brilliant, because there are players in this team who are in and around the first team who have made the bench this season and there are players who have made their debut, this season and last, and there are more young players that are coming through that are looking for that opportunity as well.
“Every chance we get to play in the stadium, in front of supporters, under more real-life pressure, the better these players are going to be prepared for a career in football.”
Chad adds that Wigan will pose a tough test this evening and the Lancashire outfit will perhaps go into the game as favourites.
“They are a confident side and a side that has done very well in their league and they have won some cups already this season,” he said.
“In the way that you would get in any other final, you are going to expect a confident side because the two teams that are there are there on merit.
“We are going to face a tough opposition but we deserve to be in this final as much as Wigan. They have won their league and they have recently won the Lancashire Cup, so if there is a team going into this game as favourites it is probably Wigan.
“So we want out players to go out and showcase what has got them to this point so far and just give it their best shot on the night and, at the end of the day, it is 90 minutes of eleven vs eleven and we deserve to be in that final as much as they do and we have got every chance of being successful as well.”