Under-18 coach Paul Hardyman has said the mentality is right within his Southampton side, who travel to Arsenal on Thursday for the fourth-round of the FA Youth Cup (kick-off 7PM GMT).
Hardyman’s side impressed with a 3-1 victory at Bristol Rovers in the third-round, as goals from Alex Jankewitz and a Sam Bellis double secured their fourth-round berth.
Arsenal were taken all the way to penalties by Cheltenham in their third-round tie, eventually winning 4-2 on spot-kicks away from home.
Manager Hardyman is expecting a tough task for his side, who come into the game off the back of an impressive fightback in the league, coming from two goals down to draw with Aston Villa.
“They’re [Arsenal] a quality academy, a very good club,” said Hardyman. “So it’ll be a tough game, we’re approaching it in the right way. Making sure we do what we did against Bristol Rovers, nothing changes.
“The boys, at every single club, build the Youth Cup up and hope that they can progress in it. That’s what our aim is. Go to Arsenal and progress in the cup.
“[The performance at Bristol Rovers was] professional, like I said. We speak to the lads about first-team environments and what it’s like. If our first-team went to Bristol Rovers in the cup it’d be a tough game, so it’s no different from that.
“We approach it in the same way, and it was a professional performance. We felt that we had the better of the first half against Bristol Rovers, but we weren’t clinical enough in the attacking third.
“Second half, we spoke about it at half time, not changing much because the lads were playing well. But we got the goals in the second half that we deserved, and that third goal was outstanding.”
Paul HardymanWe are really focused; you'd expect that as young men who are trying to forge a career in the game. We're looking forward to it.
Southampton FC Under-18s Coach
Since the Bristol Rovers victory last month Saints have only played the once as a result of the Christmas break, but Hardyman believes the training has been at a good level despite the pause in fixtures.
“[Around the] Villa game we had a couple of days where we touched on being in possession and out of possession in the two days that we had. Then this week we’ve just been building it up as we would a normal week’s training for the game on Thursday evening.
“We are really focused; you’d expect that as young men who are trying to forge a career in the game. Looking forward to it, looking forward to going up to Borehamwood.
“We go about our job as we would do, in the right way. I think our preparation is as we do for every game. The only difference is that some of our lads who are playing in the Under-23s will come down and play with us in the Under-18s. I’m sure Arsenal will be exactly the same, so there is a little bit of a different focus from that point of view.
“But the way that we’re trying to play across the professional development phase, the Under-23s and the Under-18s, is exactly the same so we’re not expecting too many changes.
You can follow live updates of Thursday night's FA Youth Cup game on our Twitter page.