EDS & Academy

Wilkinson urges Under-18s to sign off in style in Premier League National final

Ben Wilkinson has urged City to sign off in style in Thursday’s Premier League Under-18 National final away at Southampton.

The St Mary’s Stadium will play host to an eagerly awaited encounter between City's Under-18 Premier League North champions and the Saints who lifted the Southern crown earlier this month.

City lifted the northern title earlier this month, eventually finishing 10 points clear of Liverpool after a hugely impressive season.

Southampton meanwhile saw off the challenge of West Ham to secure top spot in the southern section and so earn the right to play host to City in the showpiece national final.

And with the kudos of being crowned national champions the tantalising prize on offer, Wilkinson says there could be no more fitting stage for his young players to finish what has been a memorable season.


“For me it’s the perfect way to end the season in terms of where our players are at,” the lead coach asserted.

“These are the moments where we want to get our players to - to try and put them in an environment of top-level youth games and finals as, hopefully, that is what they are going to go on and experience in their career.

“The way the league structure is set up it gives you this opportunity to play in a showpiece game. It is fantastic for both sides.

WATCH: Highlights: City U18s 13-0 Newcastle U18s

“So it’s a fitting way to finish the season and for us, from a development point of view, this is is another great opportunity to see the players under a level of pressure which is really important in terms of their journey to first team football.

“The lads have trained very well, you can see there is a buzz in the air and an intensity about the training.

"It’s what they have worked hard for all season.”

While City once again proved the dominant force in our Under-18 North division, Southampton were equally impressive winners in the southern section.


The Saints actually accrued a point more (62 to our 61) in the course of lifting the title and Wilkinson is under no illusions that City will face a testing examination come Thursday evening.

“Southampton are a very good team – they have amassed a similar amount of points to us this season in a very competitive southern league,” Wilkinson added.

“So, the league table tells you we are playing a very strong side.

WATCH: City U18s 3-1 Liverpool U18s: Highlights

“In terms of the way they play, the indications are they play in a very similar style to their first in similar formation which does present some different challenge to what we normally face.

“We know will have really tough game on our hands."

The other key message from the lead coach to his players will be to play the game and not the occasion with Wilkinson and his staff keen to abide by the principles that have served us so well this term.

“For us, it’s just about repeating the process. It’s just finding that balance in terms of getting the right tactical preparation and mental approach and just encouraging the lads to go out and play and enjoy it,” Wilkinson added.

“The lads have just grown as the season has gone on, they have got more confident in what we are doing and risen to the challenges they have been set and they are in a decent place.

“It’s been a fantastic year, regardless of what happens in this game. The Academy can look back over the course of the year and feel we are doing something right.

“We have won national trophies at 16, 17, 18 and Under 23 level already so that is a fantastic achievement and testament to the quality of players we’ve got, and the recruitment we get.

“It’s also a testament to the programme further down at the younger age group where the players started.

“We are lucky enough to work with them at the top end, but the foundations have been put in place by numerous people for many, many years and we are really bearing the fruit of that now.”

Thursday's Under-18 Premier League National final will be screened live on CITY+ For details of how to subscribe, visit HERE.

View all club partners