City boast a proud FA Youth Cup record, having won the prestigious tournament in 2020 and being losing finalists in 2019 as well as also reaching the final in 2015, 16 and 17.
Our Under-18s set out our stall this term with a tricky third round assignment away on Teesside with Saturday’s match being staged at Bishop Auckland FC.
But if City needed any extra inspiration, head coach Wilkinson says they only need look at the way the tournament has been a major springboard for the likes of Phil Foden and Cole Palmer – to name but a few - who have gone on to shine at first team level.
“We are all really looking forward to the game,” said the City head coach.
“When you look back at some of the players that have played in the FA Youth Cup in recent years, we’ve had some real success in terms of a: getting to the latter stage of the competition and b: the players that have played in those teams and then gone on to play first team football which, ultimately, is what it is about.
“So, if we can have a similar result in terms of going deep in the tournament and in terms of helping the players in their journey, that will be a real plus for us.
“It’s obviously a top competition and probably the most significant cup competition in this country at this age range.
“The game will be a really good test for us the game and the boys will be looking to build on what we achieved in the past few years.
“We’ve played Middlesbrough already this season in the league when won 2-0 up here but this will be a really tough test and it has probably been made a little bit harder by the fact it’s to be played at Bishop Auckland rather than the Riverside.
“From our point of view, it’s also going to be a realistic experience in terms of what players might face in cup games where the opposition are strong, but the conditions and pitch might be a real leveller.
“But we know Saturday afternoon at Bishop Auckland will be a million miles away from when we played them in September at the CFA.”
Despite a 2-0 reverse at Stoke last weekend in the Under-18 Premier League North, defending champions City have made a fine fist of things so far in the first half of the season, and currently lie second in the table behind Blackburn as well as progressing through to the knockout stages of the Under-18 Premier League Cup.
For his part, Wilkinson says if his players can eradicate the inconsistencies that have occasionally crept into our game they can be a force to be reckoned with.
“In recent weeks we’ve had some really positive performances but we’ve just lacked a tiny bit of consistency to be at the level we want the players to be at,” the head coach added.
“If you use our first team as the barometer, they are relentless in their consistency and their excellence and at the minute we are going three four or five good performances and then a blip, so it’s just trying to eradicate that one bad performance we throw in every now and then.
“It’s what happens with young players but for us and the standards we want to uphold, we need to try and get that inconsistency out of us.”
The incentive for the winners of Saturday’s tie will be a fourth-round trip to Brighton and Hove Albion.
But rather than get distracted by looking at what might be, Wilkinson insisted City’s focus would be solely trained on seeking to try and overcome Boro.
“It’s nice that it’s another local away game if we can get the win! Seriously though we can’t get too far ahead of us, Saturday will be difficult for us – and all our preparation and focus is trained on that,” Ben added.
“If we can get through, Brighton is a great draw and another tough game but we remain firmly focused on Saturday.”