Steve Weaver is confident that Norwich City’s Under-18s will put on a good showing against Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday (7pm kick-off).
Acknowledging the danger the United side possess, Weaver says for him it’s a 50/50, with the game able to go either way.
“It’s Manchester United, they’ve got a history of developing young players. They’ll turn up and they’ll play the way Manchester United do, get it and pass it, it’ll be an open game.
“They know that Norwich away, with the players we’ve got, will be a tough game, as we know the players they’ve got makes it a tough game for us as well.
“I think it’s a really good tie and when it came out of the hat, people would’ve looked at it and thought that’d be a good game of football. It’s a 50/50 game for me, it could go either way.”
The last Academy fixture against Man United came at the end of September, when the U23s took on the Red Devils at Leigh Sports Village, the game ending 2-0 in United’s favour.
Speaking on this, and anything taken from that game, Weaver thinks it only shows the quality of the game coming up.
“They’ve got good players, and if I remember rightly, we had large parts of that game but couldn’t score and Man United took their chances. It was a very even game, with two good sets of players on the pitch, and probably two different sets of players, so there’ll only be two or three from that game that play in this.
“It’ll be an open game, we’ve both got players that excite, and I think it’ll be a good game for everyone to see. Both teams like to play attacking football, so I think it’ll be a good spectacle on the night.”
Looking back on the third-round tie against Newcastle United, Weaver admitted that it is harder to adapt to a game when half the team plays in the U23s and half play in the U18s, but that shouldn’t stop a win.
“We showed moments in the game that were great, obviously scoring three goals, the first two were really good team goals playing from the ‘keeper, then Josh [Martin] scoring the winner.
“But on reflection, we look back and we had enough chances to have won the game. We always felt we were in control of the game; however, it was a bit too open for us.
“It maybe because the team doesn’t play together very often, and that might be what we get on Tuesday night, the majority of the boys are playing with the Under-23s and don’t play with the Under-18s as much.
“When all of a sudden when they’ve got to play together you find that partnerships aren’t as fluid as they would be if you’re playing with each other all the time.”
With Adam Idah becoming the most recent Academy graduate to make it into the first-team line-up, Weaver says such an opportunity is the motivation for the younger players to keep hard at work.
“Opportunity is the inspiration, we’ve got four or five young players in the first-team who are doing well, especially at the highest level. It’s always nice to get another one through after Max [Aarons], he’s been in the first-team for quite a while now.
“It’s nice for Adam to get his chance, he needs to now go on and play 30 to 50 games for the first-team.
“The lads are fully aware of opportunity here, I think one of the reasons they sign is because they can see they can become footballers who play in first-teams. The best place to go is where they give young players that chance.”
“The really good thing about the tie is that Man United have a very long history of playing young players. Brandon Williams, the left-back, has come through and has been an excellent surprise from a club that has a history of doing that.
“We’re trying to forge our way in the modern game of being a similar club who turns to the youth instead of big money signings.”
With the game coming at Carrow Road, Weaver says it’s a perfect chance for the fans to find out more about these future first-team stars, and maybe even spot a superstar in the making for either side.
“It helps when there’s not too many big clubs close to us, it’s a long drive to go see more football. The fans know about our players, when Josh got his hattrick, people know who he is anyway.
“When the lads sign, they get promoted. The U18s are all on social media, the forums and all these different things.
“When Adam [Idah] scored his hattrick at Preston, he wasn’t a surprise in Norfolk, everyone knows about him, maybe nationally but not here. We promote young players and put them in the first-team, and that’ll continue here.
“I think with these games, you don’t quite know what’s on the pitch. That’s for both us and United. We don’t know, the next superstar could be playing on that pitch on Tuesday, or they might not be.
“I think it’s a really good game of football that people should come and watch, it might disappoint on the night, but both teams have good players. I think it’s going to be a game that if there was one game on a Tuesday night, its probably one to take in.
“I’d encourage all local supporters to come watch the game and hopefully enjoy a good game of football”
Please note, tickets are FREE of charge and can be booked by phone on 01603 721902 (option one), at the Carrow Road ticket office or the Fan Hub.
Supporters can also gain entry at the Thorpe Area turnstiles on the evening of the match.
Supporters who require car parking should be aware that although parking is free, it may be limited to a first come, first served basis.