Gareth Taylor says there will be no complacency from Manchester City as the young Blues gear up for Wednesday’s FA Youth Cup third round tie away at Clevedon Town Under-18s (7pm).
The match-up between City and their Somerset-based opponents, who play in the Somerset Floodlit Youth League Premier Division, has captured the imagination of many with Clevedon expecting a huge crowd to watch the fixture.
For his part, Taylor says City will treat Clevedon with the utmost respect and he is expecting a tough test for his young charges.
And the manager’s overriding message to his young players will be to ignore all the razzmatazz surrounding the tie and instead focus on the task in hand.
“It is obviously a big game for everyone. The one thing we can’t do is underestimate what we’re coming up against,” said Taylor.
“We went down and scouted the game when Clevedon played Sutton in the previous round and we know Clevedon are a dangerous team. They’ve got energy, defenders who can defend and they will be a threat.
“The pitch will play a part too and it is going to be somewhere where the players will really be tested.
“For us, it’s really important that we keep sticking to the messages of earning the right to play, making sure we do the fundamentals really well and ensuring we make it a positive experience.”
The nature of the tie has captured everyone’s imagination with the Somerset club reporting four figure advance ticket sales.
It should make for a raucous atmosphere but Taylor – mindful of what happened 12 months when the young Blues lost out to Plymouth in an FA Youth Cup third round tie on penalties - says it’s a challenge that he and his players must embrace.
“A tie like this is what the Youth Cup is all about,” the Under-18s boss added. “It’s just like the FA Cup – you have an underdog and someone who is expected to win and I’ve already noticed a few Premier League sides have already gone out of the competition.
“As we found last season, if you are not at it you can be dumped out of the competition really quickly. There’s no second chance. It’s a one-off and we’ve got to make sure we are right and determined and everyone pulls together to get the result we need.
“Some of the boys taking part experienced what happened last season. So, the example is there for us not to repeat.
“We are really looking forward to it and we are hoping to do well in the competition, but it all depends on our mentality and our mindset.”
Overall, the Blues have a fine recent record in the FA Youth Cup having been finalists in three successive seasons between 2015 and 2017 as well as lifting the trophy back in 2008.
Reflecting on his own playing days, Taylor believes it’s a special competition that can provide young players with both lifelong lessons and priceless memories.
And though City have the incentive of a fourth-round home tie with Nottingham Forest should we prevail, the manager says no-one is looking Wednesday night’s assignment in the South West.
“You want to stay in the competition because of what it brings,” the former City and Wales striker went on.
“We’re going to Clevedon and playing against lads fighting to get a career and, hopefully, the further you get in the Youth Cup you come up against different opposition which is good for the players and good for us as coaches.
“As a player I reached the FA Youth Cup semi-finals with Southampton. We won the first leg against Arsenal 1-0 and I scored but lost the second 2-0 and the fact I am still talking about it now shows what it means.
“That is what makes it so special and it is vital that we understand how important it us for our learning and development.
“We are not looking any further than this game. We have to go down there and do a professional job and come back home on the bus happy. Then we can all have an enjoyable Christmas!”