Our U18s welcome Crystal Palace to Oakwell in the FA Youth Cup third round on Wednesday evening, kick-off at 7pm.
It is the first time we have been drawn at home in this competition since the 2016/17 season, and Tom Harban is hoping that the backing of Reds supporters can help make the difference against Category One opposition.
“You want to play at these stadiums and, to play on the home ground for the first time in however long it’s been, the lads are really excited and it’ll be nice to see our lads actually play on our ground as well,” he told iFollow Barnsley.
“Some of the bigger clubs don’t play at their own stadium in the early rounds, so to play here against a good side – a big team – they should be excited.
“When we’ve played out there [on the training ground] for a night game and our fans are there, it brings a little bit of intensity to the performance. Listen, it’s going to be tough – they’re a good side, whether we’re at home or away.
“Home helps us in terms of travelling and preparation, but these lads have got to learn to play in these occasions and big grounds and it’ll be an experience for them.”
The young Reds have made excellent strides over the past few seasons, breaking club record points tallies and putting in a number of fine displays as they continue their impressive development.
Harban is delighted with the progress his side is making and is hopeful that they can maintain their form between now and the end of the campaign.
“The last three years, in terms of performance and results, the lads have done really well, and we spoke at the beginning of this season; we’re always wanting to improve year by year,” continued our U18s coach.
“We’ve started well and we’re hopefully on track to beat last season’s tally. The lads want to get in the top two – that’s their aims and goals – so, hopefully, if they keep doing what they’re doing but remains consistent with it, that’s the biggest part of it, they’ll have a really good season.”
There is a clear pathway at Oakwell for players to step-up through the age groups, with several of our fledglings featuring for Martin Devaney in our U23s this season.
Playing at that level – a quicker tempo and more physically demanding – is only beneficial for the U18s lads, who have grasped their opportunities with both hands when they have come along.
“It does the world of good for their confidence, especially when they go up there and perform well,” insisted Harban. “We’ve got Danny Benson who has been up there quite consistently, now, and his level of performances is improving all the time.
“Harrison Nejman has been up and had a few games for the under 23s and he comes back down, gets the armband for us and performs equally well week in, week out, but he has to maintain that and not get complacent when he comes back down – that’s what we look at.
“So, I’m really pleased that we’ve had so many up there and hopefully they go beyond that as well.”
You can watch Tom’s interview in full on iFollow Barnsley for FREE.