Blackpool’s youth team ready for date with destiny

Ben Jacobson celebrates scoring for Blackpool in the first leg of their semi-final with Arsenal
Ben Jacobson celebrates scoring for Blackpool in the first leg of their semi-final with Arsenal

John Murphy says the anticipation for Blackpool’s FA Youth Cup decider at the Emirates has been like the feeling of waiting for Christmas in November.

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The youth team head down to the capital on Monday to play the second leg of their semi-final against Arsenal.

With the two sides playing out a 2-2 draw in the first leg at Bloomfield Road, Murphy knows there is everything to play for as his young charges look to make history.

He told The Gazette: “It’s been a funny one really because the first leg was almost a month ago now, which feels like a long time ago.

“That means it’s something to look forward to for longer if you like. It’s like being in November and waiting for Christmas.

“We’ve had games in between and we’ve tried to manage the players. We had a game on Saturday where we were nearly enough full strength. This Saturday, no one will play which will give an opportunity to the Under-15s and 16s.

“Then we travel down on Sunday for what is the ultimate test really. But when you’re in the semi-finals, you’ve got to expect big tests. This will certainly be that but it’s one we’re looking forward to.

“Since the first leg we haven’t dwelled on it, we haven’t said ‘Arsenal this, Arsenal that’. We’ve just got on with it.

“We’re obviously excited about it but we haven’t really spoken about it. We’ve got other things in hand with league games.

“But it will certainly be ramped up this week and we’ll be watching videos and we’ll be preparing.

“The trouble is, we don’t even know what their team is going to be. I think one of their Under-18s played for the first team last week so you’re thinking to yourself, will he play?

“Then for the first leg they had some players who were on international duty, do they come back into it?”

The youth team will be cheered on by members of the first team, including manager Gary Bowyer.

“We will be going down to give them our fantastic support on Monday and hopefully they can pull it off,” Bowyer said.

“I think they’ve got to take it in as a fantastic occasion.

“But once the whistle blows, they’ve got the opportunity to get into the final and it’s very, very rare that opportunities like that come around.”