Under-23s' coach Dan Green says the fans have a huge part to play on Thursday as Exeter City host Aston Villa in the Premier League Cup.
The competition, now into the group stages, will see City’s under-23 team take on their counterparts from Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers and Portsmouth, home and away over the next five months with the aim of finishing in the top two places of their group to qualify for the knockout stages.
However, one of the main aims for City is to develop the young players in the team so they are ready to play first team football for the Grecians in League Two. A big part of that is gaining experience of playing in front of a crowd, which is why Dan says the supporters, who can get into the match at SJP for £5 or less, have a big role to play.
“We talk about getting the players first-team ready by the opposition you play, but a huge part of it is having the fans there, playing under that support and having them (the fans) push you on when a game is tough,” he said. “It is all part of the players development and I know a special part of this competition is the fact that they get to play in front of the fans at St James Park so the fans are a massive part of the development and progression of our young players.”
Speaking about the competition, Dan, added: “It is a tough competition to get into. You have to qualify and some teams have had to have two games to get to qualify into the competition. The opposition is really strong. They come from category one, category two and category three academy opposition and, again, this year we have got a very tough group that will provide lots of strong opposition for the players to develop from and get that game time against.”
Villa come to St James Park as the only Premier League academy side that City will face. However, Dan added that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the toughest test they will face in the group stage as both Portsmouth and Doncaster will also be strong.
“Villa will be a very well organised team, because they are probably a squad that trains together most days and they are also in the Leasing.com Trophy, so they will play against strong opposition in that, and, of course, they are a category one side so they are a really well-established academy.
“They will be tough on their own merits, but Doncaster and Portsmouth will provide different types of tests as well. So, I think, it is going to be a really difficult group this year but one which is going to provide a real variety of tests for our players.”
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