Hull City’s youth-team face the biggest challenge of their season when they go toe-to-toe with Liverpool in tonight’s FA Youth Cup quarter-final (7pm).
The lads from the KC Stadium currently sit second in the North East Youth Alliance but it is their Cup run that has caught the imagination.
A 3-1 victory over Leicester in the last round saw them become the first Hull side to arrive at the quarter final stage for 22 years. Tonight Billy Russell’s class of 2013 are bidding to go one better and create history by becoming first Tigers youth squad ever to reach the last four of the competition.
“It’s a great time for the lads. We take a lot of pride in seeing them get this far but it’s like any Cup run, it’s what you can do on the night that matters,” Russell told the Hull Daily Mail.
“There will be a few that are nervous but that’s inevitable, it’s how you use that energy. Holding your nerve will be the biggest challenge and you’ve got to embrace the night.”
“It’s a big thing for them. A lot of the lads are Hull City supporters and for some it will be their first time on the pitch.”
“One or two have played in school cup finals there but with the crowd in there too it will be a big night.”
Chelsea, conquerors of Derby County, await the winners in a two-legged semi-final but Liverpool undoubtedly provide Russell’s side with their stiffest examination to date.
The three-time winners of the FA Youth Cup, who are a category one Academy under the Premier League’s new Elite Player Performance Plan are able to boast a team of players recruited from all over the country including former Wycombe Wanderers starlet Jordan Ibe.
Hull, the only Category three Academy still in the competition may not be able to match their opponents financially but there is genuine hope that their local lads can prove their equal on the park.
“Because of the status of Liverpool and their Academy’s tradition, they’ll be favourites,” added Russell
“They’re a good side who are attractive and like to play football. We’ll respect them but we can’t fear them. It’s only when you look at the profile of their players you see they’ve got boys from Wycombe, West Brom and Wrexham.”
“They’re able to bring players in from other clubs and whereas we’ve got eight or nine boys from our own system. That’s something we’re proud of. The boys have got an empathy with the club.
“It does tell you there’s a healthy feel about our team.We expect to do well again if we play our own game. The big concern is making sure the boys don’t freeze.”