Calum McIntyre has challenged the youngest members of Chester FC’s youth set-up to ‘seize the spotlight’ in the Cheshire FA Youth Cup final.
The Blues take on Heswall in the showpiece at Vauxhall Motors’ Rivacre Park home tonight (Friday, 7pm kick-off).
Victory would continue Chester academy’s season to remember after the under-18s created history by reaching the third round of the FA Youth Cup.
Some of those players who helped inspire superb successes over Fleetwood Town and Bolton Wanderers will not be able to feature tomorrow night. That is because the Cheshire FA Youth Cup is an U17s competition.
But, with the Blues’ combined U16/U17s Colts side also thriving, the club’s academy head coach McIntyre said: “It’s a really exciting opportunity for our players and another huge part of what has been a landmark season for us.
“So much of what we have worked toward has come to fruition over the last 12 months and we hope to add a county cup to that list of successes on Friday night.
“We took some really bold steps in changing our strategy for the U16-U18 age groups this season and it is a real reward for that and the people that work within it.
“In dealing with the oldest age groups, I am incredibly fortunate to work with an outstanding coaching team in Martin Farley, Paul Reid and Jack Maddock. It’s a really talented group of coaches but an even better set of people.”
Chester have eliminated Alsager Town, Higher Bebington, Vauxhall Motors and Barnton on their run to the final.
And McIntyre added: “We have perhaps been criticised for not entering the county’s youth competition in recent years and we felt now was the right time to show the competition the right level of respect.
“With so many of our U16s and U17s already playing youth team football, it has allowed us to field a really strong side in this competition.
“We have spoken to the players about taking real ownership over this competition. The FA Youth Cup run was dominated by people talking about Nathan Brown’s free kick or some of the performances from James Jones or James Hodges.
“Actually, this is now the chance for the younger members of that squad to really seize the spotlight. Friday night, it might the Joe Edwards’ turn, or Ryan Dobson to be the one that people are talking about. We have a really strong cohort of U17s and Friday gives them a chance to achieve something together that really belongs to them.
“It’s going to be a tight encounter, I’m sure. It’s a cup final and it feels like everyone outside of ourselves will want Heswall to win and I can’t help but enjoy that.
"There’s no doubt they will relish the role of the underdog but I’m really okay with our group being seen as favourites. I back my players to produce the right level of performance on the night."
Entry is £3 for adults and £1 for concessions tonight.
Chester’s U18s and Colts have also reached their respective North West Youth Alliance cup finals.