MARK LILLIS will send Huddersfield Town into FA Youth Cup action at Hartlepool tonight telling his teenage charges: “Embrace the occasion.”
The third-round tie under the floodlights at Victoria Park (7.00) represents a rare chance to play in a stadium environment.
And Lillis, who as academy manager is working hard to ensure Town meet the guidelines of the FA’s wide-reaching Elite Player Performance Plan, said: “It will be a big night for the lads.
“It will also be a big night for the coaches (Tony Carss and Frankie Bunn will be in the dug-out) because these kind of games tell you a lot about a player’s character.
“I remember when I was youth coach here under Brian Horton (Town boss from 1995-97) and we went to Manchester City.
“We’d got through tough ties against Port Vale and Preston and fancied our chances, but a number of my lads just froze on that big pitch at Maine Road and we lost 3-1.”
Town memorably made the Youth Cup final in 1973-74, losing 2-1 to Tottenham over two legs, and the semi-finals the season after.
And while they are going into one of the 32 ties aiming to win, Lillis says learning from the game is just as important as the result.
“Injuries mean we will promote a few from the Under 16s, and what a chance it is for those lads,” he explained.
“It’s an opportunity for them to experience the pre-match build-up as well as the game itself, and I really want them to get the most from the occasion and learn as much as they can.”
Town, playing in the Youth Cup for the first time this season, had academy coaches Carss and Bunn at Hartlepool’s 3-1 second-round win at Lincoln.
“We have an ideas of how they will play, but from our point of view, it’s about how our lads approach the match,” added Lillis.
It’s Town’s third meeting with Hartlepool in a competition they first entered in 1952-53, losing 3-2 at home to Bury.
Pools were defeated 4-3 in a first-round tie at the John Smith’s (then Galpharm) stadium in November 2007.
And at the same stage in 1984-85, Town were 3-1 replay winners at Leeds Road after a 1-1 draw in the North-East.
Already through to the fourth round are Burnley, who won 4-3 at Manchester United, Liverpool (5-0 at Swindon), Chelsea (3-2 at Colchester) and Arsenal (3-0 at home to Newcastle).