Stags’ academy manager John Dempster wants his players to enjoy Thursday’s FA Youth Cup third round tie against Crystal Palace, but insists they are focussed on implementing a game-plan to cause an upset against the Eagles.
Stags’ young guns welcome the Premier League side to One Call Stadium tomorrow (7pm) and supporters are encouraged to come and support the club’s future stars.
The U18s have secured 1-0 victories against Grimsby Town and Rotherham United in the first two rounds, while Palace have entered the competition at the third round stage due to their academy status.
Speaking after his side’s 3-0 win at home to Lincoln City in the EFL Youth Alliance on Saturday, Dempster said he wants his squad to savour the occasion, in addition to enjoying the preparation ahead of the fixture.
He explained: “The one thing they’ll get from myself and the academy coaches is us wanting them to enjoy it but that’s not to say it’ll be a ‘jolly up’.
“It means we’ll be fully focused on the preparation for the game.”
“Part of their experience is to enjoy the preparation, enjoy trying to complete a game-plan and if they enjoy that then you never know, we might cause an upset.
“I’d like to stand here and say ‘it’s the same as any other game and the players look at it like another game of football’, but they don’t.”
The youngsters will be given the opportunity to impress in front of a large crowd with Stags’ first team staff expected to attend the match, whilst ex-England manager and current Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson could make the trip to north Nottinghamshire for the encounter.
“It’s massive for them; it’s an opportunity to play in front of the first team manager and his staff.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that Crystal Palace will be sending a few of their first team staff, so you could potentially have an ex-England manager there watching them.
“Also, it’s local, so all the players’ friends and family will be coming, all the younger age groups will be there as well, so there’ll be quite a big number there watching.”
After progressing through the last two rounds with wins at Grimsby’s Blundell Park and Rotherham’s New York Stadium, Dempster believes the experience of playing at first team venues are an important part of the learning and development process.
“This last month has been fantastic, they’ve experienced different environments and it’s great to look at the boys and see how they react to it and all the different pressures that come with it.
“If we’re honest, the biggest test is on Thursday, if we get anything out of the game it would have taken a monstrous effort.
“But I wouldn’t write any of the lads off. Not only are they good players but their work ethic and desire to win and compete for each other is exceptional.”
Admission prices are adults £3 and concessions £1.50.