Liddle in pursuit of play-off spot.
Sunderland AFC’s under-18 coach Craig Liddle has described his side’s final four games as ‘cup-finals’ as the young Black Cats look to secure a play-off spot in the Barclays U18 Premier League.
You could clash them [the last four games] as four cup-finals really, if we can get into the play-offs, which should be everybody’s aim now, it would be a very good achievement.
- Craig Liddle
Liddle’s side are top of Group One with four games remaining and they start their final period with a trip to Stoke who, themselves harbour ambitions of a play-off spot after defeating Liverpool last weekend.
And the former- Darlington boss is sure his side are focussed on the task in front of them.
“You could clash them [the last four games] as four cup-finals really, if we can get into the play-offs, which should be everybody’s aim now, it would be a very good achievement,” Liddle explained.
“The lads are obviously looking forward to it; we’ve had a bit of a break and a game against York City to keep the boys ticking over.
“We’ve had a weekend off, for the lads who live away they’ve time go home and see their family and friends.
“We were back in Tuesday, refreshed, raring to go and if we don’t make the play-offs it won’t be through a lack of trying.”
Liddle’s side know Stoke well having met on three times already this campaign, Sunderland won the encounter between the two in October before Stoke came out on top in December, the two sides drew 2-2 in February.
And Liddle hopes his boys can build on positive performances in recent weeks and turn them into results against a Stoke side he thoroughly respects.
“This will be the fourth time we’ve played them; we’ve probably dominated in terms of possession against them each game we possibly haven’t had the results that we’ve probably deserved so hopefully this time with a bit of luck on our side we can get a result as well as a performance,” he added.
“The performance is vital despite the fact we want to get into the play-offs.
“Stoke do try and play good football, they’ve got some big lads but most academy sides are similar in that they like to get the ball down and play.
“We’d like to think if we perform to our maximum we’ll come out on top.”
Martin Smith and Ethan Robson are the latest under-18’s to feature for Kevin Ball’s Development Squad leaving Liddle with mainly first-year scholars at his disposal.
And Liddle feels the opportunities for his younger boys are better than ever with the importance of the upcoming games.
“A couple of lads played for Kevin’s side on Monday and a couple will play next Monday against Chelsea so we’ll be young again.
“I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how we get on against another very good side.”