Academy boss Darren Edmondson gave us his reaction to the FA Youth Cup defeat at home to Hartlepool on Tuesday night.
“It goes without saying that the lads are gutted,” he said. “I think as the second half unfolded you could see that the team who got the first goal and settled into the rest of the game was going to win it.
“It was very nervy from both teams in the first half and unfortunately we didn’t respond to that. We just didn’t handle the nervous feelings that were within the group and that’s when you start to doubt yourselves.
“Throughout the 90 minutes you’d have to say we had no fluidity to our game and we didn’t move the ball well enough. Being totally honest the best team won in the end.”
“We’ve told the lads that they’re better than what they showed us in this game,” he continued. “Having said that, Hartlepool put pressure on us when we had the ball and we just weren’t good enough on the night.
“Looking back at the game now it’s come to down to the lads being too nervous and not coping with it. Six or seven of them just didn’t deal with the occasion.
“The lesson from this is that you can develop footballers, but it’s those who have the right mindset, determination and drive who become professionals. What distinguishes who goes on to be successful often comes down to what’s going on between the ears. Hartlepool showed they had more steel between their ears on this occasion.”
“We had two or three chances to go ahead before they got their first goal and we didn’t take them,” he commented. “Just before they scored we had a one-on-one, which we missed, and 25 seconds later they were in front.
“They’re the margins you’re dealing with. With the way the game went it was always going to be the case that it would come down to who would take the chance when it came. The lads know they didn’t do themselves justice, so we’ve reminded them that they must try to find a mechanism within themselves to get some belief in what they’re doing.
“I think too many of them doubted themselves and that’s when your passes start to go astray and it leads to poor performances. There are lessons to be learned but it’s a quick turnaround for the Blackpool game at the weekend.
“We now have to concentrate on getting some consistency in the league games we have left. From there we have to see if three or four of these lads can shake themselves into becoming professionals.”
In conclusion we wondered if knowing that a home game against Liverpool was next up for the victors had added to the nerves leading into the game.
“That was always a huge, added pressure,” he admitted. “But that’s the kind of thing you have to deal with. It could be that they’re involved with the first team next season and it’s the Liverpool first team in round three.
“If you can’t deal with it at youth level then the chances are you’ll find it difficult to deal with a big first team occasion. That’s why this game comes down as much to mental strength and belief in yourself as it does to having the ability to play the game. The two go together and, if one ingredient is missing, you’re going to struggle to really make your mark.
“As I say, we learn lessons and we make sure everybody is ready to go again at the weekend. It’s a big few months coming up and I want all of these lads to give themselves the best chance possible of taking the next step. That’s where our focus will be from here onwards.”
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