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FA YOUTH CUP: Wise head on young shoulders
AGED just 17, Alex Ferguson is planning on using all his experience to help coax Swindon Town’s first-year scholars through the drama and excitement of a County Ground cup date against Premier League opposition.
The Swindon under 18 captain - a modern central midfielder with an eye for goal and a calmness in possession - has already experienced the glitz and glamour of playing in an FA Youth Cup showpiece under the lights at SN1.
Ferguson was part of the Town side that lost 5-1 to Manchester City’s academy last season and he plans to use those memories to guide the younger element of this year’s squad through a daunting test of character and nerve tonight.
“Everyone’s looking forward to it, all the players are buzzing for it.
“We can’t wait for a big crowd at the County Ground hopefully.
“The first round against Newport last year I was involved in, and then against Birmingham and Man City I was involved.
“Me and all the second-year lads take it on well and we’ll make sure they feel comfortable, especially the under 16s as well because it’s quite a big stage to play on.
“We’ve got to step up our game and everyone will because it’s such a big stage and we need to get the result.”
Life as a second-year scholar is somewhat different to how most teenagers live out their college lives.
A lot of sacrifice and dedication goes into the development process, as all those in their final year in the Swindon academy bid for a professional deal.
“Mondays we have college in the mornings and then come to the County Ground and train in the afternoons,” said Ferguson. “We have normal training on a Tuesday in the morning, lunch and then maybe gym work in the afternoon.
“There’s a free day on a Wednesday when me and a few other lads go to the gym in the afternoon to make ourselves better then training on Thursday is the same as Tuesday and then Friday we prepare for the game on Saturday.
“We all want to be treated like pros but there are the other jobs as well, like cleaning up after the first team.
“We want to be professional but we’ve got to work up to it. Everyone’s trying to work hard to impress.
“It’s a big stage and a very big stage to impress with a lot of people there.”
Ferguson is full of belief that he and his teammates have it in them to knock top-flight Liverpool out of the competition this evening, even though they will be missing Louis Thompson who is struggling with tendonitis.
“We started off really well in pre-season, beating all the big academies like Cardiff and Swansea and then we’ve let ourselves down against teams like Oxford with poor results and poor performances,” said the Robins skipper.
“The front two are scoring a lot of goals. Mark (Francis) and Connor (Waldon) are working really hard. Our wingers are dangerous as well.
“We’d take a 1-0 win no problem.”