Mansfield Town’s table-topping youth team travel to Fulham for their big FA Youth Cup third round tie today with some of them already having caught the eye of manager Steve Evans this week.
The U18s travel to Motspur Park, Surrey, to face the Cottagers for a 4pm kick-off) after beating Bedworth United and Dunkirk in the opening two rounds.
But the youth players were also given a chance to shine in an inter-squad game against first team fringe players on Tuesday, and Evans said some gave him food for thought.
“I think the youth team staff have done a terrific job here,” he said.
“They have assembled a group of young men that are very enthusiastic.
“I think, when they see the first team struggle a bit in certain games this season, the youth team think they should play.
“But the physical demands, the strength and what it take to play in the League are somewhat different and I think some of them have been taught a harsh lesson of what it’s like.
“But we want to involve them in those type of games.
“There were two or three performers that stood out and that’s what we are looking for.
“We accept that if we’ve got 20 in the academy programme, 20 won’t make the first team. But we have to be thinking three or four will.
“We’ve had one look and we will be having two or three more this side of Christmas to make sure we analysing everyone properly before January comes.”
Evans has a special reason why he wants to see the youngsters progress tonight.
“I want them to win as the winners get Rotherham, so we’ll take on our old club,” he smiled.
“But what a terrific place to go and play their football – the chance to go and play at Fulham’s training ground which is a wonderful place and a Premier League training ground. The kids will learn from that and benefit from that.
“It will be a tough evening as Fulham have got some tasty kids.”
Academy manager John Dempster said: “We know it’s going to be a good experience but what I want to do is go there and make a game of it.
“If our players are at our best and we carry out our game-plan, I’m sure we can make it a tricky afternoon for Fulham because we’ve got several threats of our own which would cause any team a problem.
“It’s just making sure that we’re clear in our game-plan, clear in our mindset and we go in to it with 100 percent focus.
“It will be different to the facilities we experience on a weekly basis but the principal won’t change and our attitude, hopefully, will remain as good as it has been throughout this season and last. That will give us the best opportunity to cause an upset.”
“There’s a definitely a buzz about the place and an excitement as they look forward to the game.”