Gregor Rioch looks ahead to Latics’ FA Youth Cup clash with Manchester City.
- Latics host Man City in the FA Youth Cup fifth round.
- Gregor Rioch looking ahead to a ‘great night for the club’ at the DW Stadium.
- Latics set to face ‘one of the best academies in Europe’.
Latics’ Under 18s host Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup at the DW Stadium this evening, taking part in the fifth round of the competition for the first time in the club’s history, a moment to savour says Head of Academy, Gregor Rioch, with Latics up against what he calls one of the best academies in Europe.
“It’s great for the club that we’ve managed to get to the fifth round, which is the first time in the club’s history.
“To be at home at the DW Stadium against Manchester City is a great prospect for us and will be a great experience for the players.
“Manchester City have one of the best academies in Europe, along with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. They’re generally on another level.”
Latics are currently operating in category three of the Elite Player Performance Plan, with Man City in category one, a challenge that Rioch says the whole academy is embracing, and a good chance to gauge where the club is at.
“It’s great for us to play a team like Man City. We’ve had a very successful year so far in category three, but it will be good for us to really see where we are and where we want to be.
“Some of our lads will aspire to be Premier League players one day, so it’s important to come up against the best and see how they perform.
“The Derby County game in the previous round helped us to judge where we are right now.
“We have a good group of players who have a strong bond and a huge togetherness and we know they’re talented in their ability as well.
“The lads weren’t phased at all playing against Derby, they were very excited and looking forward to it, so if we can go in with the same mentality against Man City then we’ll be able to show what we’re capable of.”
Latics celebrating the winning goal against Derby County.
Following on from Latics’ 1-0 win at the DW Stadium in the fourth round against Derby, Rioch says the team is much more prepared for tonight’s fixture, particularly with a run behind them after entering the competition in the first round.
“We’re better prepared for this match because of the win against Derby.
“Playing Man City under the lights can be particularly daunting, and I’ve experience that type of situation before as a coach. Sometimes you come up against a good side in a big stadium and some of the lads are like rabbits in the headlights, and all of a sudden you get knocked out and that’s the whole FA Youth Cup experience over.
“The wonderful thing for us this year is that we’ve had good experiences entering from the first round. We’ve played York City at Robin Park, we’ve travelled to Lincoln City, and we then played Stevenage at Robin Park, and slowly built our way up to the big stage at the DW Stadium.”
With the magic of the cup in the air, Rioch admits it would be great for the youth team to grab their ‘cup moment’.
“It feels like we’ve got the magic of the cup behind us, and who knows maybe we could get our ‘Ben Watson moment’ against Man City.
“In the earlier rounds the expectation was on us to win, but now there is less expectation, other than the fact that we expect our players to go out and perform to the best of their ability.”
Latics do have FA Youth Cup winning experience amongst their ranks, with Rioch himself a winner as a player in 1990 with Millwall, and coach Alex Gibson a winner as manager of Man City’s youth team in 2008, a club both Rioch and Gibson have spent time with.
Alex Gibson, Gregor Rioch and Peter Atherton with the Lancashire FA Youth Cup in 2015.
“Alex Gibson works closely with myself, Peter Atherton and Will Ryder. He’s got excellent pedigree and history in what he’s achieved over the years.
“He won the FA Youth Cup with Man City in 2008, so it’s a special fixture for him as well, the fact we’re welcoming his former club to the DW Stadium.
“It’s great for us to have Alex’s experience and to see the types of players he brought through into the Football League and other leagues in professional football.”
Gibson helped lead City to success in the 2008 final, with all but three of his winning side going on to play in the Premier League or Football League, building up a catalogue of 1,545 appearances and counting, with players such as Daniel Sturridge, Kieran Trippier, Ben Mee and Dedryck Boyata.
Rioch praised the work carried out at City over the years, and the continued progress they’re making.
“Alex worked with Jim Cassell and Frank Bunn who will probably come to the game tonight. They started it off really at Man City in the academy and brought through so many good players.
“Now what you’re seeing alongside the investment at Man City is coaches like Jason Wilcox who are working really well with the young players there.
“You only have to look back to the weekend with Kelechi Iheanacho scoring a hat-trick in the FA Cup to see what type of player they’re bringing through. They’re doing a great job at Man City.”