Newport County AFC academy manager Damien Broad says his players understand the test they’ll face at Ewood Park this evening but insists he has the confidence of masterminding an upset against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup.
In making it to the Third-Round stage, the Young Exiles have already written themselves into the history books of getting the furthest in the competition of any County academy side, but Broad says everyone is hungry for more success.
County beat Bridgwater Town in Round One then edged past Uxbridge last month, securing themselves an opportunity to test themselves against Blackburn – a category one academy who currently compete in the U18 Premier League.
And while Broad admits this is by far the toughest test of the campaign, he insists his players have to go there, enjoy the occasion of playing at Ewood Park, and hopefully play with the freedom and determination that gets them a positive result.
He affirmed: “The occasion will speak for itself, it’s their opportunity to go out and play against higher opposition at a historic former Premier League stadium in Ewood Park.
“It will be nice for the boys if there’s a big crowd, we understand it’s a long way to go on a Tuesday night for our supporters to travel. I know Blackburn Rovers are trying to get the attendance up by giving tickets out to local schools so hopefully there will be a bit of a crowd there.
“What other incentive do they need? From our perspective, we’ve done very well to get this far so it’s a case of going out there and trying to go even further into the Fourth Round.
“We’ll expect a certain standard from the lads in terms of their performance, work rate, mentality and approach to the game. If we do come up short on the night by losing out to a quality side in Blackburn Rovers, then fair play to them.
“We’ll be going there with a game plan, if we can get something out of it then it would be brilliant for the lads. We understand the test ahead but we’re ready for it.
“For the lads, it’s going to just be a case of going out there and enjoying themselves. It’s a fantastic occasion for them and the club playing at an impressive stadium of Blackburn Rovers.
“It’s a case of let’s see if we can cause an upset on the night. We go into the game with confidence. We understand they are very good opposition, already this season they’ve defeated Manchester City in their league campaign.
“We know it’s going to be very tough but we’re going up there to hopefully cause an upset and get into the hat for the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup.
“We’ve had some tricky ties on the way [against Bridgwater Town and Uxbridge]. We found ourselves in the unfamiliar position of being favourite in both of those ties, but the boys did well to get through those tests.
“This one is definitely the toughest test so far.”
Broad has been meticulously studying the recent cup performances of the County first team to learn how the underdogs can often triumph in a one-off cup game if they embody all the right attributes and perform to the required standard.
Michael Flynn’s men have constantly upset the odds in the Emirates FA Cup, defeating 2016 Premier League Champions Leicester City plus Championship duo Middlesbrough and Leeds United.
They also took Tottenham Hotspur to a replay and ran 2018/19 domestic treble winners Manchester City mightily close and Broad is confident that his players can learn from those performances to ensure a positive result tomorrow.
He continued: “We’re definitely taking inspiration from the first team and the runs they’ve been on in the FA Cup recently.
“You can see the great work the first team have done to beat the standard of opposition they have. Most of the time they’ve been the underdogs, yet they’ve knocked out Premier League opposition.
“We’ll be doing a video montage to play on the bus to hopefully inspire the lads into achieving the unexpected.”
Support the Young Exiles as they try and make history once again this season.