AcademyFA Youth Cup preview: 'Be brave, respectful and stamp our authority on the game'

By Steve Hunter


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Marc Bridge-Wilkinson has urged his Liverpool U18s to be brave and show their true identity when they travel to face Port Vale in the FA Youth Cup fourth round tonight.

The young Reds defeated AFC Bournemouth 2-1 away from home in their last outing before Christmas in a third-round tie.

Port Vale are in the fourth round of the competition for the first time in 10 years after defeating Chesterfield, Salford City and Hull City en route to Liverpool.

Kick-off at Vale Park is at 7pm GMT and the tie must be settled on the night, with extra-time and penalties a possibility.

  • The game will be shown live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO in the UK only. Subscribe to LFCTV GO now and get a month FREE using the code GOFREE23

Read on as Bridge-Wilkinson looks ahead to the contest and tells us what improvements he is looking for from his team after Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to Blackburn Rovers in their first outing of 2023…

On the 3-2 loss to Blackburn Rovers…

Firstly, we are disappointed to lose the game and it’s not what we set out to achieve. There were moments in the first half when I was quite pleased with what we did, but in the second half the game changed and went away from us a little bit and we struggled to get back into it. There were some areas of our play I was quite pleased with but other areas we know we’ve got to be better.

On how crucial it is to take chances at key moments in the game…

We went 1-0 up and then had two or three really good chances to score and increase the lead, but for different reasons we didn’t quite manage to do that. We then gave away a penalty and the game was back level, and the second half became a bit tougher and we struggled at times.

FA Youth Cup highlights: Bournemouth 1-2 Liverpool U18s

On the third-round win at Bournemouth with a young side out…

It was a tough day. We knew what Bournemouth would give us but the lads did really well in spells in the game. We managed to get two goals in front, which I felt was deserved. They put a bit of pressure on us and managed to get a goal back, but in the final moments in the game it was really pleasing to see our lads stick to their task of keeping them at bay and defending well, and having Wellity Lucky back from injury now was a big part of that. We did the dirty and the hard side of the game really well, so it was a nice way to win – especially away from home on such a long trip. It made the journey on the way back that little bit sweeter.

On the challenge of Port Vale on Wednesday night…

We’ve seen a little bit of them so far and from what we’ve seen they are a good side. They have played three games to get to this point and have stood up to the challenge of the teams they have faced so far. It’s a game we certainly won’t be taking lightly. They are going to be tough, aggressive in the way they press and defend, so we’ve got to find a way past them and hopefully score some goals.

On his spell as a player at Vale Park…

I was at Port Vale for four years, a long time ago, and really enjoyed my time there. Port Vale is a really nice and good football club, really nice people. It was a time when I look back on it during my career as a player I really enjoyed.

On the influence of Tommy Pilling in midfield who was a key figure against Bournemouth…

Tommy is a really good little player. He’s got a lot of ability and we know what he is capable of. I guess the key is we’ve got to try to get him to produce that more often. I think Tommy is capable and he has shown he is capable of dictating games for us and managing the tempo of games from the middle of the pitch.

On his message to the players going into this tie…

It’s not going to be easy, we are going to someone else’s backyard and the pitch there is very big, which is great because it gives us a different challenge. It’s a game where ultimately we want our boys to go out there and showcase themselves as individuals and themselves as a team. At the end of the game we want them to have no regrets, play well, perform well and do what we set out to do. We want each of our boys to look themselves in the mirror at the end of the game and say they have given it their best shot. Be brave, be respectful of the opposition, but be really brave and try to stamp your authority on the game.



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