Millwall’s Under 18 side are preparing to do battle on FA Youth Cup Third Round night at the University of Bolton Stadium on Wednesday (kick-off 7pm), as The Lions' Academy take on Bolton Wanderers.
Larry McAvoy and Chris Perry’s young Lions will look to extend their Cup campaign further than last season’s memorably valiant attempt against Tottenham Hotspur – Billy Mitchell’s stunning strike last December at The Den coming so close to being the decisive goal, before Spurs’ late show via extra-time.
The Under 18s approach the contest in Greater Manchester in inspired form, having won their last five games and scored a remarkable 17 goals in the last three – topping the Southern section of the age group’s Professional Development League.
The evening will be an intriguing challenge for the teenage Millwall side, against a set of Bolton players of whom many have featured for the club’s first team in senior League football this season.
Joint-manager Perry says: “We’re very much looking forward to it. It’s certainly the game the boys look at first in the calendar before Christmas.
“We’re coming into it in really good form – the challenge for the boys is playing under the lights in a big senior stadium. But we’re preparing for it just like any other game.”
Fellow joint-boss McAvoy adds: “We’re scoring plenty of goals and also have the best defence in the League so far, which shows we’re doing things right in both boxes. What we’re looking to do is take our momentum from recent results into the tie.
“A lot of the Bolton boys have picked up valuable experience playing in front of fans under the lights in League One this season.
“But if people look at last season against Spurs, a top Category One team who we were 30 seconds away from beating, then it is expected that our boys can go and handle the occasion.”
Several of last season’s Academy scholars were rewarded for their fine progress with regular outings with Kevin Nugent’s Under 23 side, and even being involved with Gary Rowett’s first-team training after signing their first professional contracts last summer.
Midfielder Mitchell – scorer of last campaign’s Youth Cup screamer – and striker George Alexander have both made senior Millwall debuts, with full-back Junior Tiensia also among the travelling Lions party for recent League fixtures. Perry and McAvoy stress it is hugely important for the current crop of Academy prospects to be motivated by a noticeable pathway into the first-team fold.
“This is absolutely key – it’s been nice to see Billy on the bench in recent games,” Perry claims.
“We think we’ve brought through some brilliant players in recent years who deserve a chance, and hopefully when they’re ready, they can impress the first-team manager and get on the pitch.”
“There has always been a pathway at this club, which is very important. The young boys see players breaking through and know they want to be that player one day. Given the opportunity, I think these lads will take it,” McAvoy adds.
Tickets to support the young Lions at the UoB Stadium are available on the night at a price of £3 for adults, and £1 for concessions.