Whites Cup action

Wednesday 6 February 2002

Wednesday evening sees Fulham's Youth team take the field against Ipswich Town in the 5th round of the FA Youth Cup at Woking FC's Kingfield stadium.

Having progressed through the Cup playing a brand of football that has become synonymous with Jean Tigana's philosophy, Fulham's youth side will face their toughest test against their highly rated East Anglian counterparts.

On Tuesday afternoon Youth Academy Director Steve Kean spoke exclusively with Fulham Today to explain how this match will be different to most Academy encounters.

"I think it's a good yardstick to see how far we've come because in the other games we play, we tend not to focus as much on results because the boys are working on technical sessions all week. Our regular games are mainly just to see what information they've retained."

"When you get into the Youth Cup, it's a prestigious tournament so the stakes are higher than regular Academy games. It's definitely a competition that we're trying to win."

The Academy's policy not to publish its results via the Internet or matchday programme only reinforces the belief that development is more important than results at that level. At such a crucial stage of a player's development the focus on technical ability and knowledge of the game is the primary objective as Kean describes.

"The first team's results are outcome driven, points take you up and get you into Europe. For us it's different because our job is to produce players so you never sacrifice technical development just to win a game. It's easy to win games at Academy level, you would only need to put the ball into the box and get as many chances as you can."

"It takes different techniques to produce a player who is technically good, can defend, knows the game and is used to the passing style that we adopt at first team level."

With Ipswich as one of the leading favourites to win this season's tournament, Kean is under no illusions about the difficulty of the encounter. Nonetheless, he is confident that his players will prove to be more than a match for the Tractor Boys despite having a relatively young side.

Even though the tournament's age restrictions are set at an under-19 level, Kean could well field a side that would meet the criteria for an under-18 match. Introducing younger players to a higher standard of football is seen as a good way to prepare them for the next level of progress.

"Initially during the first six months they were a bit overawed by the physical side, but it definitely makes them play quicker and with sharper technique when they receive the ball." Kean explained.

For many Fulham supporters, this will be their first opportunity to see the next generation of Whites in action. What type of football can they expect to see?

"What they can expect is the very same as they get from the first team, we're not a physical team, we like to get the ball down and pass it. We're trying to produce players for the first team. So the supporters will see technical players who like to play with their head up. Hopefully they'll be very excited for the future with this group.

"Ipswich will be a good side to play. Normally the style that the first team adopts is taken down through to the Academy ranks and as everybody knows, Ipswich like to get the ball down and pass it, so I don't expect to see balls launched from fullbacks into the box."

"We've got some very good prospects at the club. Within the next 18 month hopefully two or three of the players on view will be in the first team. Certainly the manager wants to have the backbone of the team coming from within, so it will be the first taste of what we've got to offer."

Make sure you're there to give your support as the Whites look to progress to quarter-finals.

Kick-off 7.00pm
Woking F.C.
Kingfield Stadium

Ticket Prices

£3.00 Adults
£1.00 Children/OAPs