City’s Under 18s set out on the defence of our Premier League Under-18 Cup crown at home to Southampton on Saturday seeking to build on what manager Gareth Taylor terms an ‘amazing’ start to the new season.

Prior to last Saturday’s first defeat of the season away at Blackburn, the City youngsters had won their first five league games and we currently lead the Northern section table by two points from second-placed Liverpool.

And as he both reflected on the first six weeks of the campaign and looked ahead to the start of the cup campaign, the Under-18s manager was full of praise for the way his young charges have set about their task.

“I think it has been an amazing start,” Taylor declared.

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“Despite the negative of last Saturday before that there were five wins on the bounce with a very young team.

“It’s not easy – we are coming up against teams that are a lot older and a lot more experienced than us.

“We are a very young group and we are carrying four second years two of who started against Liverpool while they had five players who started against us in last season’s FA Youth Cup final.

“We’ve had a number of young lads join us too and it can sometimes take them time to integrate but they have done great.

“I’m so happy with the group. They have taken on the challenges and they are really good coachable group.

“It’s exciting to work with them.

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“I’ve known a few since they were Under 12 and the lads that have come in have had a big influence and settled in seamlessly which tells you the core of the players here the welcoming environment they have created.

“There is a still a lot of work to do but the attitude and enthusiasm of the lads is first class.”

City secured the Under-18 Premier League Cup with a 1-0 win away at Middlesbrough in last March’s final which was the culmination of an impressive qualifying campaign.

It was a tournament that saw the likes of Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Adrian Bernabe – both who featured in our first team’s midweek Carabao Cup win at Preston – further their development.

Taylor says his new-look squad share a desire and hunger to replicate that success, but he is equally aware that a group that also features clashes against Swansea and Liverpool, will present tough challenges.

“We did so well last season and want to be successful again, but now we start afresh with Southampton whom we played before in the competition’s first year and I know it will be a tough game,” the Under 18s boss warned.

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“Although they are not in a favourable position in the Southern League, what happens in these competitions is that many teams tend to put out FA Youth Cup teams whereas we don’t always have that luxury due to other demands.

“So, it’s all hands to the pump but what a great opportunity for the lads.

“I also really like this league format. After Southampton, we’ve got Swansea and Liverpool in our two other group games which are really good challenges.

“Two of the teams we wouldn’t play normally so it’s an exciting challenge and we will be looking to progress through.”