DONCASTER Rovers’ youth team will be looking to underline the emerging talent at the relegated Championship club in tonight’s Football League Youth Alliance Cup final against Exeter City at St James’ Park (7pm).
The Devon side were the top scorers this season in their section of the Alliance and have home advantage, nut Rovers’ Head of Youth football Paul Wilson is confident that the trophy will be on its way to the Keepmoat Stadium tonight.
“They are at home by virtue of winning the toss but I don’t think that they will get much advantage,” he told The Star. “I don’t think we get any advantage from playing at home.”
The home side is rated as Exeter’s best-ever Under-18s line-up and although Wilson doesn’t expect them to boast the same individual skills as did Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup third round earlier in the season, he says they are not treating the Devon side lightly.
“They are obviously a very good side and have beaten some good teams, including Millwall in the Southerrn Area final, to get to the final and have got some very good individual players, some of whom have played at first-team level. But hopefully we’ll have more on the night.
“They are dangerous going forward and have three good strikers but we have players who will also cause them problems.”
One player, in particular, that Wilson will be looking to is left-back James Husband.
Rovers signed the 17-year-old defender on a 30-month contract late last year and he has earned rave reviews in the club’s last two Championship games after making his full debut in the 2-0 win at Coventry in the penultimate game of the season.
All of which came as no surprise to Wilson, who did an excellent job at Scunthorpe United before being ‘poached’ by Rovers during Dave Penney’s time in charge.
“We are obviously very proud of James; everyone at the club is proud of him,” said Wilson
“I’ve been telling everybody for two years that he has a chance of being a top player at the highest level. But for now I just want him to play for Donny and do well for us.”
But it is not only the young defender who has succeeded in winning himself a professional contract.
Five other players have also been offered a full-time deals by the club, reflecting manager Dean Saunders’ decision to give priority to the club producing its own players.
“They have all got to speak to the manager regarding the terms but they are obviously delighted to have been offered a contract,” said Wilson.
“Who knows if some of them will provide the backbone of the Rovers’ team in a few years’ time?
“But they’ve been given the opportunity to develop for another year or so, which I think is vital at the age-group they are at.”
He added: “To have six players offered deals proves what a great season it has been for the team.
“We finished runners-up to Hull City in the league and gave Chelsea a run for their money in the FA Youth Cup, and victory tonight would round off a very good season.”
Wilson says that the young Rovers will be able to draw on the experience gained from playing against Chelsea, who included a number of players tipped to become household names in the future, as well as their exploits in the pre-season Gothia Cup in Sweden.
“It’s a proper tournament with extra time and penalties if needed, and we’ve gone over there for the last four years to gain experience for games like tonight,” said Wilson.
“We finished third last summer. We were unbeaten all the way through but lost in the semi-final on penalties.”