Norwich City must justify top billing in FA Youth Cup test at Doncaster
Norwich City Under-18s chief Jerry Gill is warning his squad the Canaries' FA Youth Cup pedigree counts for nothing ahead of Thursday's third round bow at Doncaster Rovers (7pm).
Gill accepts City's premier academy status and the exploits of Neil Adams' collective back in 2013 mean Ray Grant's side are expected to progress, but the Norwich coach insists they must earn it.
'Make no bones about it, if we do the right things we should win the game,' he said. 'We are a category one academy and we won this a couple of seasons ago. The minnows and the smaller teams raise their game and it is up to us to go out and impose ourselves on them and play how we want. We'll be prepared and ready to get a result, but it will be a tough game.'
First team boss Adams and technical director Ricky Martin plan to make the trip to Doncaster and Gill wants his troops to embrace the expectation that comes with the prestigious competition.
'It is a competition we want to win, of course,' he said. 'We are focusing on Doncaster, but if you get on a run and maybe miss the big boys, the Arsenals and Chelseas, you never know and that is what happened the year we won it. There was a snowball effect because we were not great in those earlier rounds, but they did enough to get through. This is like the FA Cup at senior level and you can be sure whatever we tell these boys at the start of the season they have one eye on the draw.
'I know Neil is coming up. He was the first to text me after his own game on Saturday. He said he will be there. It shows he is heavily involved in the academy and if I am a player now in this academy there is no better time to be here because Neil has proven if they are good enough they will get a chance. That is another pressure for the players, but I know these lads can handle that.'
A core of Gill's side has already featured at under-21 level for the Canaries.
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'Of this group we may have something like six or seven who have already played at under-21 level. That is fantastic, it shows they are playing beyond their development group,' he said. 'Take someone like Benny Ashley-Seal, who is 16 and was part of it for the televised game against Tottenham at under-21 level in front of 10,000 fans at Carrow Road. Ray Grant is another. He is the captain for a reason, because he leads by example, and he played in the FA Youth Cup last year.'
Gill wants his latest crop to draw inspiration from the progress of the 2013 Youth Cup squad.
'The Murphys are a great example,' he said. 'They have had exposure to first team football inside and outside the club now and we want these boys to go out on loan and experience league football. There is a pathway now. Clubs look at us and can see we are doing the right things with our young footballers as they learn their trade with us.'
Cameron McGeehan is another who has sampled success at Luton on loan and the man who lifted the trophy at Stamford Bridge in 2013 is urging Grant's men to believe.
'In our group it was all about believing in ourselves,' he said. 'We were always going off to Nandos or the cinema together so we were quite close off the pitch. The first couple of rounds are tough and you just have to get through. They are playing Doncaster and I remember we had QPR at home, but you have to get through and build momentum through the competition and then the big teams and the lovely stadiums come along.'
• Extra-time and penalties will be played if the score is level after 90 minutes.