Youth Team Coach Danny Webb has praised the maturity of his squad ahead of the O’s trip to Premier League side West Bromwich Albion in the FA Youth Cup tonight.
The U18s travel to the Hawthorns this evening for their Third Round tie (kick-off 7pm), and Webb is looking forward to seeing how the boys deal with the occasion.
“It’s a big night in terms of being something that they deserve and will hopefully remember positively,” Webb told leytonorient.com.
“I said at the start of this season that they are a very young group and there was a lot of expectation on the second-year scholars to carry the team through games against more experienced sides during the opening months.
“They have now come through that period and started buying into how I want to do stuff, and I feel we have definitely got a Youth Team that the Club can be extremely proud of.”
The O’s are the lowest ranked side to remain in the competition, an achievement which Webb believes is a credit to this squad of players who are all progressing well as individuals.
“One thing that I noticed early in pre-season was that I needed to do a lot of work to turn them into young men as opposed to boys. They are not fully men in terms of mentally and physically, but they are now showing a bit more maturity both on and off the field.
“They are not going to be the finished article just yet, but there is a lot to work with and they have listened to what I have tried to teach them about how they have got to carry themselves whether that is here or away from the Football Club,” he added.
“Making the step up in football is very different to starting at college or university, or even working a 9 to 5 job. It is a ruthless environment in which they have to develop a thick skin and maturity, and they are getting there. That has shown in the games we have already played to reach this stage of the tournament, and the boys have carried any expectation really well.”
The trip to West Brom also provides the Orient youngsters with a different challenge to what they have faced in the earlier stages of the competition, and Webb is looking forward to seeing how the squad deal with coming up against a team from a higher division.
“It is a nice change going into the fixture knowing that the pressure will be on someone else. I don’t think you can predict how it will go because it will be a new experience for these players.
“It will be interesting to see how they will fare but I don’t want them to be looking at it as just a day out. That will of course be a part of it, but ultimately it is about seeing how they cope with being the underdogs and coming up against a side that consists of three or four internationals that are likely to dominate possession for large parts of the game.
“Ideally everything goes to plan but with them being young lads it is likely that there will be blips throughout the night, and that is where we can see how they react. Every blip will give myself, Pete and the other staff the opportunity to identify what we can work on differently in the future.
Last season saw the U18s reach this stage of the competition in which they lost out to Premier League side Leicester City, and the O’s Youth Team Coach concluded by praising the support shown by everyone at the Club.
“The younger professionals in the first team had a similar experience last season by playing at Leicester City, and they have a great relationship with the scholars that are here now.
“They are sure to have passed on any advice and wished them luck, just like the older professionals have ahead of today’s game,” explained Webb.
“It is great to see everyone so supportive of each other but it is important that we look at this as another part of their development, and regardless off the result we have to see where we can help these boys progress as both a team and individuals.”
Tickets for tonight’s FA Youth Cup tie are priced at £5 for adults, and £1 for concessions.