EDS & Academy

Wilkinson braced for tough Under-18 Premier League Cup test at Palace

City’s Under-18s return to Premier League Under-18 Cup action away at Crystal Palace on Saturday with head coach Ben Wilkinson warning it will represent one of our toughest challenges of the season.

Wilkinson’s exciting young side have made an excellent start to the competition, recording an impressive 5-2 win over Aston Villa in our opening group encounter last month.

Palace – who are riding high in third place in the Under-18 Premier League South - were meanwhile edged out 3-2 away at Liverpool in their inaugural group fixture.

However, Wilkinson says that the young Eagles will present a formidable challenge for his players who will also have to contend with the rigours of a long journey to South London and overnight stay with several players only having just returned from international duty.

“It will be a really big challenge for us,” the Under-18 head coach asserted.


“Palace are a very good side, they have got some good players, they are very athletic, very physical, and they have got some really good quality in the final third so we know what to expect.

“We’ll obviously be preparing for the game as best we can and get an idea towards the end of the week what our team will look like.

“We are missing quite a few boys who are away with England, so we’ll see what we get in terms of players at the end of the week and work through the process of how we need to try and go there and be successful.

“We’ll train Friday morning, travel Friday afternoon and then get over to the hotel.

“A lot of these players will have only just got back from international duty so they might be a bit tired - just like the first team players will be.

“So, it’s about having the professionalism to come back and having just one day to prepare and then go again, travel again and be expected to play well.


“All these things are difficult but if they want to succeed at a club like this they need to and to be able to do it.

“Starting them on the process at 16/ 17 will only benefit their development long term.”

City boast a superb record in the Premier League Under-18 Cup, having won the tournament for two years running in 2019 and 2020 before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

And Wilkinson says the incentive of trying to potentially achieve a hat-trick will act as an extra motivating factor for his squad.

However, he warns that City will have to be at our best to try and navigate our way out of a demanding group.

“The way the club operates these days we want to be successful and for players development it’s a real nice pressure to have,” Wilkinson added.

“That you are expected to play well, that you are expected to win, and that you are expected to win things.

“They need to handle that, but we have a really tough group.

“Palace are a very good side; Villa are a very good side - they won the FA Youth Cup last year - and Liverpool have top players too so it’s a really difficult group and only the winners are guaranteed to get out of it.

“Saturday is an important game in terms of progression, so we’ll go there and try to do all the right things but understand it’s one of the most difficult challenges we’ll get this season at Under 18 level.”