Coach previews semi-final clash

by Ashley Houghton

'It should be a fantastic occasion for our lads.'

Sunderland under-18’s coach Craig Liddle says the young Black Cats have nothing to lose as they travel to Fulham in the Barclays U18 Premier League semi-finals this evening.

Liddle’s side, also coached by Elliot Dickman, beat Aston Villa 4-2 on penalties last weekend to progress to the semi-final stages after winning Group One ahead of Tottenham and Liverpool.

And Liddle feels Wednesday’s game is just another part of the learning process against a Fulham side who topped the Elite Group having scored 74 goals in 26 games.

“They’ve had a lot of investment in their academy - a lot of players have come from overseas, they’ve had an excellent season so we’re under no illusion that it’ll be a tough game,” Liddle explained.

“It’s about our boys going down and having a go more than anything else – they’ve done fantastically well to get as far as they have so it’s another part of their learning to go down to Fulham and play under the floodlights.

“It should be a fantastic occasion for our lads.”

And Liddle says the young Black Cats will travel to Fulham’s Motspur Park with the minds fully focussed on progressing to the final.

Though, Liddle did say how his side handle their nerves and the pressure of the occasion will be play a big part.

“There will be pressure; the lads will be nervous,” he added.

“They were nervous before the game on Sunday and I’ve explained to them they are not a bad thing – you need them sort of nerves to help you through things.

“In most games you need that little bit of luck on your side, we’ll go down with a game-plan we’ll try and stick to it the best we can and hopefully it’ll be enough to get the lads through.

“The lads will want to win the game, without a shadow of a doubt, so it’s just a case of going down, doing our best to win the game and come Wednesday night we’ll see where we are.”