AFC Fylde Under-18s preparing for match of a lifetime at Chelsea
AFC Fylde’s Under-18s will “stay humble” but believe they can pull off a massive upset in the game of their lives away to Chelsea on Friday.
The Coasters teenagers’ best ever run in the FA Youth Cup continues with a fourth-round tie in the capital.
It’s their thrilling reward for a dramatic 3-2 victory away to Cambridge United and team boss Conrad Prendergast told The Gazette: “The lads really look ready and excited, and it’s a massive occasion.
“For some of the them it will be the biggest game they will play in and we are trying to stay humble and do the right things.
“Chelsea are miles ahead of us in terms of ability, the size of the club and its infrastructure, but we are preparing properly to try to win as we would any other game.”
The two-week break since the Cambridge game is a relatively short one – that tie came four months after they beat Sunderland in round two – and Prendergast says they have used their time well.
“We had to stop training for around six weeks while the cup was suspended and did sessions online via Zoom,” he explained. “Then we treated the fortnight before the Cambridge game as a mini pre-season and we had a game against the first-team squad, which was hugely beneficial.
“We’ve made the most of the time to make sure our planning is right and we are fully prepared. Too much time can be a hindrance because there is the possibility of overcoaching and trying to give so much information to the players that you take the enjoyment out.
“We have tried to keep the right balance and not over-prepare. We have worked on being harder to beat because we’ve conceded in every round so far. We don’t want to risk that against Chelsea, so we are working on being more solid defensively.”
The 12.30pm kick-off at Kingsmeadow in Kingston-upon-Thames is the first of two massive cup-ties for the club over Easter: Fylde Women face Burnley in the second round of the Women’s FA Cup at Padiham on Sunday (2pm), their first game since mid-December.
Prendergast is keeping the players guessing over his starting side and is happy to change a winning side.
He explained: “They might have an idea of the team from some of the tactical sessions we have done but we have always picked the team that is best-suited to the opposition.
“We have not used the same starting XI in each round and players will come in who have not featured in earlier rounds.”
Whoever is selected, one player definitely with his team-mates in spirit will be Luke Bennett.
Fylde dedicated their victory in the last round to the 17-year-old from Chorley, who was killed in a devastating accident this month, and Prendergast added: “Luke is still a massive inspiration to us. It was a really tough week ahead of the Cambridge game.
“Luke is still very much in the forefront of our minds as we prepare for Chelsea and in many ways he will be there with us.”
Good Friday’s winners will be at home to Manchester City or Everton in round five.
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