Paul Tait believes his Everton Under-18 team boasts the quality and character to rise to the occasion when they face Brighton & Hove Albion in a fifth-round FA Youth Cup tie at Goodison Park on Tuesday night.
Tait is confident his team’s combination of attacking firepower and defensive solidity can see them win through against the Seagulls and book a spot in the quarter-finals.
The game will be streamed live on evertonfc.com
and the Club’s official YouTube
channel, where former FA Youth Cup winner Francis Jeffers will be providing co-commentary.
The young Blues have enjoyed an impressive campaign and sit top of the U18 Premier League (North) table.
Brighton are ninth in the southern division but have put together an eye-catching Cup run, having secured away victories at West Ham United and Manchester United.
Tait expects the south coast outfit to provide a tough examination but has called on his players to savour the opportunity to showcase their talents on the Goodison stage.
“It’s a great night for them,” he said. “We tell the players - whether they go on to become top footballers or whatever level they play at - if they have a really good Youth Cup run, they will never forget it.
“It will be a very tough test. I watched Brighton’s game when they played Man United - it was a disciplined defensive performance and they were a threat on the counter-attack.
“But we’ve got some really good firepower, with Ellis [Simms], Korede [Adedoyin] and Anthony [Gordon]. You can add young Lewis Dobbin to that now as well, he has been playing very well.
“We’ve got four good front players who can make a difference.
“We’ve been working really well as a team, though, right from Harry [Tyrer] in goal and the backline, which has been strong all season.
“The midfield lads have been outstanding, too, in terms of their work rate and effort, the way they get the ball back and their technical ability in possession.”
Everton’s Cup campaign began with a 4-1 home victory over Sunderland, before a dramatic penalty shootout triumph at Stoke City saw them progress into the last 16.
Goals from Simms and Mackenzie Hunt had given the Toffees a 2-0 lead at the Bet365 Stadium but a late Stoke double saw them force the match into extra-time and then penalties.
Goalkeeper Tyrer was the hero in the shootout. He saved three spot-kicks while Hunt, Rhys Hughes and Ryan Astley all netted to secure Everton’s passage into the next round.
Tait believes the resilience his players have displayed bodes well as they aim to advance further in the competition.
“We had a couple of tough periods in the Youth Cup this season,” explains Tait.
“We had a tricky spell just after half-time against Sunderland – we were 2-1 up but it could have gone either way – but we showed real character and then went on to win the game comfortably.
“Then again, against Stoke, we conceded a goal in the last minute.
“That’s a real test, to come back in extra time and play, but I thought we were the better team in those 30 minutes. And then, of course, we showed real bottle and ability to win on penalties.
“There have definitely been lessons learned.
“We’re excited about Tuesday night now and hopefully it will be a good night for us.
“The players are looking forward to it immensely.”