Rob Etherington: The journey isn’t finished

Rob Etherington: The journey isn’t finished

Whites boss looks ahead to FA Youth Cup semi-final.

Leeds United Under-18s have a chance to reach the final of the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1997, as the young Whites host Millwall Under-18s at Elland Road.

United overcame Norwich City and Brighton & Hove Albion in the early rounds of the competition, before beating Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United on penalties at Bramall Lane.

The Whites would go on to record a stunning 3-1 success over Liverpool under the Elland Road lights in the previous round, setting up the mouth-watering final four clash with the Lions on Thursday.

Ahead of the historic semi-final, Under-18s boss Rob Etherington spoke to LUTV.

“The normal build up for us on this journey in the FA Youth Cup probably has been slightly different. We have made a conscious effort to build the occasion up a bit this year. It has been really valuable for us because it allows us to hook back to the history of the club and the values of the club, to be able to build up the pressure and develop their skills.

“We have had a bit of everything really in this run, which if you were going to plan a route to this point, it probably wouldn’t have looked too dissimilar to what it has been like. We haven’t played a club lower than the Championship for a start, we haven’t played a club with a lower academy level than category two and we have played away from home in the first three games.

“The Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United was a different type of game completely and that is what these experiences are all about. The players had to dig in, show real character and Leeds United spirit, which they did.

“The journey has been really good and the players’ development has rocketed in my opinion from where we started. We have always had a lot of belief in this group, as we do with all of our age groups, and as the games have gone on, there is a real belief moving forward.

“The FA Youth Cup wins in particular are a big part of the club. We have spoken to the players as well about how they can inspire those that follow. One of the most pleasing things for me was in the quarter-final against Liverpool, the academy players and their families were there and they could see what it is like to be a Leeds United academy player and could see all the fans there.

“Having around 10,000 there at Elland Road to watch the Under-18s is fantastic and will inspire everyone in the academy. We are different to most clubs, and the fans really back their own. It is a really exciting opportunity for the players and it is more than a game of football.

“Millwall are a good team, we have done our prep as we normally would do, but from game one on this journey, the focus has always been on us. I would back them against anybody, and the feeling that I get from the group is that they would back themselves against anybody.

“The journey isn’t finished. The objective on Thursday is clear: make it to an FA Youth Cup final for the first time in 27 years.”

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Last time out in the FA Youth Cup: