Liam Agnew

Play-off shake-up excites Agnew

by Ashley Houghton

Youngster relishing Liverpool showdown.

Sunderland U18 midfielder Liam Agnew says team morale is the main factor behind the young Black Cats’ success since the turn of the year.

Agnew, who has made more appearances than any other player in the U18s this term, feels the group’s mentality has improved throughout the season and they are now reaping the benefits ahead of Saturday’s crunch match with Liverpool.

And Agnew feels that morale is vital as the side prepare for their must-win clash with the Reds on Saturday.

“The biggest difference in 2013 has been that we’ve become more of a team, we’ve all bonded together more and we’ve had a laugh - but at the same time we’ve been more focused,” Agnew said.

“The team hasn’t been changing, which has helped, we’ve had a solid, regular back four which has benefitted our defence.

“We’ve been playing regularly and I think three games on the bounce is better than changing it week in, week out.

“It’s [preparations for the Liverpool game] just been the same really, for the last five or six weeks the team morale has been unbelievable. Obviously we had a setback last week against Tottenham but the lads looked at the results and realised we were still in with a shout .”

Agnew, who has scored three times this season – all of which have come in 2013 - told that the excitement is making the Academy of Light a pleasant place to be as the young Black Cats approach their biggest game of the season.

“All the lads are looking forward to it, especially me, it’s a challenge as well as an important game and I think the lads will live up to it,” he added.

“Obviously we need the three points, a draw is not good enough, so our mind-set is going to be one thing, and one thing only, and that’s going to be to go and win the game.

“If you don’t want to win things in football then there’s no point being a footballer – although the U18’s is to help develop your career and get you to the next level, you still want to be winning things and competing at the highest level so it’s going to be a great challenge.

“We’re all excited but we’re still focused for Saturday and we know not to get too excited as setbacks do happen.”

Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners last time the two sides met in February, though, that game featured multiple schoolboys on both sides.

And Agnew expects another tough game when the Reds come to the Academy of Light.

“I’m expecting a very tough game; no game is easy in this league, anybody can beat anybody so you’ve just got to expect them to bring up a very good side.

“They’re going to play the very best football so we’ve got to match that and beat them."