Academy manager John Dempster wants his players to head in to Friday’s FA Youth Cup clash with Fulham with the same attitude as usual in order to give themselves the best chance of success.
The under 18s will travel to Motspur Park, Surrey, to face the Cottagers this Friday (16 December, 4.00pm kick-off) in the third round of the FA Youth Cup after they defeated Bedworth United and Dunkirk in the opening two rounds.
And academy manager Dempster wants his players to stick to the same principals which saw them win the EFL Youth Alliance last season and has helped them to sit atop the table so far this campaign as they look to cause an upset on Friday afternoon.
“We know it’s going to be a good experience but what I want to do is go there and make a game of it,” Dempster said.
“If our players are at our best and we carry out our game-plan, I’m sure we can make it a tricky afternoon for Fulham because we’ve got several threats of our own which would cause any team a problem. It’s just making sure that we’re clear in our game-plan, clear in our mindset and we go in to it with 100 percent focus.
“It will be different to the facilities we experience on a weekly basis but the principal won’t change and our attitude, hopefully, will remain as good as it has been throughout this season and last. That will give us the best opportunity to cause an upset.”
The Kettering-born former defender is expecting a very difficult game against the West London side but says he can feel an excitement amongst his squad, who are based at Brooksby Melton College.
“They’ve got some very quick and powerful players so we’re going to have to be at our best defensively. They’ve got several different variations from set plays so we’re going to have to be very concentrated and also you’re going to be going to a pitch which is going to be in very good condition.
“The facilities will be top notch because they’re a category one academy and they have millions and millions of pounds pumped in to their system.
“You hear little snippets from them (Stags' players) talking about the game. With social media and YouTube and things like that, they’re able to watch clips of Fulham and keep up-to-date about what players are playing there and if they’ve got international players and stuff.
“There’s a definitely a buzz about the place and an excitement as they look forward to the game.”
The youth team played in a training game against selected members of the first team squad yesterday and Dempster says the high intensity of the match should act as a ‘wake-up call’ in regard to how they need to progress as they work towards becoming a professional footballer.
“I think it was a wake-up call for the group about the standards that are being set at first team level and fitness levels and the power levels because a lot of the boys who went up [to training] are 16, 17, 18 years old.
“When you watch the first team play, you can admire how good a athlete they are but it’s not until you actually come up against them that you actually realise the level. Although a few of them might have got on the bus after the game and had a harsh reality check, it can only benefit them in their development.
“How good is it that the first team manager has take time out of his day to have a look at the players we’ve got at the academy? He’s show an interest and that can only benefit our players even further.”
The former Stags’ skipper revealed that forward Nyle Blake is expected to be fit for Friday’s match after he recovered from an ankle injury, however winger Tom Marriott is struggling to reach full fitness in time for the Youth Cup tie.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Sam Wilson is progressing well after he suffered a dislocated elbow six weeks ago, however he won’t be ready to return to action until the New Year.
Supporters are welcome to travel to Motspur Park to watch the young Stags in action and the address for the venue is as follows:
Motspur Park Training Ground,
Admission prices are £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.
Supporters who aren't travelling to Surrey for the match can follow the action via our twitter feed or on the Stags Wall.