Heading into our U18s’ FA Youth Cup first round clash with Spennymoor Town on Friday evening, Jonathan Bland is hoping he and his teammates can rediscover their early season form.
The young Reds made a blistering start to the Professional Development League campaign and deservedly sit top of the pile but have picked up just one point from their last two outings.
“I’m very excited,” insisted Bland. “It’ll be good to get on Oakwell and play under the lights.
“We’ve improved almost every week, I’d say, until probably the last couple of weeks; our performances have maybe dipped slightly – which is why I’d say this Friday is a big week for us because we need to get back to where we are so we can kick on in the league and the cup.”
Our youngsters come into this tie on the back of a 0-0 draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday last Friday at the Oakwell Training Ground.
It was a much-deserved second clean sheet of the term, but Bland admits there was a sense of frustration at not hitting the levels they know they can in the South Yorkshire derby.
“There’s a lot of togetherness in the team and we know that those are the games we should definitely be winning,” he continued. “I think it shows where we want to be as a club and as an under 18s group.
“That 0-0 draw was disappointing to come away from.”
If selected on Friday night, this won’t be Bland’s first experience of playing at a main stadium, having turned out at the Hawthorns for his previous club West Bromwich Albion.
The 17-year-old believes these moments – being taken out of their comfort zone – are important for the development of young players as they look to take the next step in their careers.
“It’s amazing, seeing all the stands and even just some parents or fans in the stadium cheering you on is an unbelievable feeling,” he smiled.
“I think being able to deal with the pressure that comes – even the different noise from the coaches on the sidelines; it’ll be different from the Showcase to Oakwell on Friday night, so being able to deal with both is massive.”
Come and cheer on our U18s this Friday at Oakwell. Entry is free via the West Stand Only, kick-off at 7pm.
Also on Friday evening, we play host to the second edition of Social! Join us from 5pm, offering tasty street food accompanied by good music and a selection of beverages - with free entry!
Why not combine both and pay a visit to Social before backing our young Reds under the lights at Oakwell?