City youth boss Ricky Martin insisted that his teenage troops feared no-one in this season's FA Youth Cup competition as the Canaries prepared to play host to Stoke City in the fourth round of this season's prestigious tournament.
And with, it would seem, good reason after the Colney teenagers rounded off their 2008 campaign with a 2-1 away win against Under-18 league leaders Arsenal. Who, of course, they battered in that Carrow Road showpiece event. It completed a six-game unbeaten sequence that leaves the kids in fine fettle going into tonight's showpiece cup occasion.
Stoke at home, says Martin, holds few fears.
“The home draw is vital,” admitted Norwich's Academy boss, a luxury yet to be afforded City's senior team as they 'dream' of an FA Cup fourth round trip to the Brisbane Road home of Leyton Orient – should, of course, they overcome Charlton at the second time of asking.
“They've already had some experience of playing at Carrow Road and that then helps them when it comes to playing the FA Youth Cup game.
“And while they can handle that, it's certainly a different experience to when they play at the bigger arenas like your Newcastles and your Sunderlands,” added Martin, where two of his previous FA Youth Cup challenges have led him before.
“But is there anyone we fear at youth level? No, I wouldn't say there is,” said Martin. “And that's a message I'll be passing onto the team.
“A home draw… I feel with the group of players that we've got to take on anyone in the cup. Away from home is slightly different; you're on your travels; it could be from one end of the country to the other and that takes a lot out of a young player.
“But a home draw? At Carrow Road? We get through and I'll be looking to take on anyone.”
The one side he might, just, fear is Tottenham. “They'll be one of the stronger teams – they've got a certain lad called Bostock in their squad who is worth a few pennies,” said Martin, referring to teenage Crystal Palace prodigy John Bostock who was whipped out of the Eagles' hands last summer – amid much rancour and accusation from Eagles owner Simon Jordan.
“I think if you put the value of their squad together, I think they will be very disappointed if they weren't making the semi-finals.”
Spurs, of course, are in the southern section of the Under-18 Academy league structure and are, therefore, a known quantity. Stoke from the northern section are less familiar to Martin and Co. But it is clear that he has done his homework.
“We know that Stoke will play similar to their first team,” he revealed. “So they'll be looking to get the ball forward as quickly as possible; they've got a big centre-forward.
“So we know a little bit about them. And if they've done their homework, they would have come and seen our last game which was away at Arsenal. And we beat Arsenal 2-1. So let's hope they did do their homework that day…”
A potential muscular approach to the tie holds few worries either, it seems. “They can only by physical if they get on the ball; our job now is to keep the ball away from them.”
For the midfield pairing of Tom Adeyemi and Korey Smith, tonight's game is just part of a busy week in the spotlight as both 17-year-olds made the trip to The Valley at the weekend.
“They've been away; Korey's been on the bench and now he's captain and will, hopefully, have a starring role in Wednesday in the Youth Cup,” said Martin, with an obvious carrot to dangle in front of his young midfield tyro.
For given the 'barest of bones' that City chief Glenn Roeder has at his disposal, who knows what Saturday's trip to Sheffield United might bring – let alone next week's FA Cup replay when the Canaries will again be obliged to field seven substitutes.
“If he [Smith] plays well then he may well be back in the senior squad next week. So there's a chance for him to impress in front of the manager.”
For one or either to feature in the FA Youth Cup one week, the FA Cup proper the next would be “the dream”, said Martin.
“There's no reason why if one or two of them play very well on the Wednesday, that the manager might not put them on the bench the following Tuesday.
“And as the game progresses and if the game is going in our favour, he might give one or two of them an opportunity…”
As Phil Parkinson did with Jonjo Shelvey – the 16-year-old Addicks prospect who all-but run the first-half at The Valley. And scored that thumping opener.
“We've come across him several times at youth level and he's also in the same England Youth squad as Jed Steer. And Korey and Tom have played against him several times.”
And the result was..?
“We built Charlton 4-1.”
City Youths: Rudd; Francomb, Stephens, Dumic, Brindley; Omoregie, Smith, Adeyemi, Dawkin; Kelly, Davey. Subs: Steer, Reeves, Clark, Ball.