The holders return to FA Youth Cup action on Saturday afternoon, when Chelsea visit Colchester in the third round.
Having lifted the trophy with a two-legged victory over Blackburn Rovers last season, Adi Viveash’s squad are looking to pick up where they left off at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, and the coach believes they are in the perfect condition to do so, having gone through the 2012/13 season as yet unbeaten.
‘It’s nice to go in as holders, but there is an added expectation around the Youth Cup at this club,’ Viveash said. ‘It’s when we get the best players together, and I’m confident we have a very good group of players. The difference we have this year is that the youth team is performing to a very high level, and results and confidence have been good.
‘The Saturday team is young and this team will be a mixture, with the five who have played this season with Dermot for the Under-21s who are still available for the Youth Cup trying to find the balance. They’re all good lads, and seem really up for it.
‘We’ve a few injuries, Jeremie Boga missing is a blow, Alex Kiwomya has an ankle problem and Dion Conroy got knocked out at Middlesbrough and won’t make it, but we have a big pool of players and I just hope the players can do the job, then they can challenge for places in the next round if we’re in it.’
One of those players who have this season stepped up to the higher level, but who will be in the line-up against Colchester in Essex, is Lewis Baker.
The midfielder (pictured above) admits there is always an air of anticipation as Youth Cup games approach, regardless of previous successes.
‘Everyone wants to win and it’s the biggest competition for us as youth players, so everyone is excited and buzzing for Saturday’s game, and hopefully we can get the win away and see what happens after that,’ he said.
‘I think we’ll all always remember last season, it was a great occasion for us, continued the 17-year-old. ‘A couple of times during the run we fell behind in games but always showed the team spirit we needed to come back.
‘This season I’ve had a good run of games with the Under-21s, and I’ve scored a couple of goals which is one of my aims for the season, but everyone here trains at a high standard at all levels, it’s just as sharp, but coming back down we have to play for the team and remember what’s important.
‘We’ve had a couple of days together, Adi is a great coach and makes us work hard, and he keeps us on the ground.’
Looking around his squad, the coach is clearly pleased with what he sees ahead of the match, and has laid down the challenge to his youngsters.
‘There’s a steely determination when I’ve challenged them to see if they have the will to retain the trophy,’ Viveash said.
‘Winning it is a superb achievement, but there aren’t many teams who retain it. We’ve got a good enough group of players to do that if they play to their max, and they will need to do that from the off.’
Saturday’s game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium kicks off at 1pm. Admission is available on the door, with prices £7 for adults, £5 concessions, £3 under-14s and £1 under-8s.