Ian McGuckin urges Hartlepool United kids to grasp their time in the FA Youth Cup limelight against Liverpool
Ian McGuckin's Hartlepool United side may lack the international flair of Liverpool, but the coach insists his kids are not just there to make up the FA Youth Cup numbers.
This evening, Steven Gerrard brings his Reds under-18s to Victoria Park for the third round clash.
And while McGuckin knows his Pools lads will be facing world class youth internationals, he sees no reason why his team should play second fiddle.
“Let’s not mess around here, Liverpool have a massive squad of players they can pick from at this age group,” he said.
“And in that group are youth internationals, who play in one of the best England youth teams there is.
“I have no doubt we are playing up against players who will have Premier League and international careers. But that does not mean we are just here to make up the numbers.
“Our lads are well prepared. This is there chance to pit their wits against some of the best young players this country has to offer.
“There is an excitement in the dressing room. The players can’t wait to get out there and prove themselves against players from one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
While McGuckin is in no doubt about the obvious level of class possessed by tonight’s opposition, he is also sure one or two of his Pools crop can make a name for themselves in the game.
All you have to do is look back at the Hartlepool FA Youth Cup team of 2002 - who were beaten 3-2 after extra time at Old Trafford by Manchester United.
He said: “Just because you are not with one of the Premier League academies from a young age does not mean you cannot turn out to be a very good professional footballer.
“All you have to do is look back at 2002. I was speaking to Sweens (Anthony Sweeney) about that year this week. He talks about the opportunity it gave him, and others, at such a young age.
“Now it’s the turn of the boys in my squad.”
Weather is the only thing standing between the Pools kids and their shot at glory.
A pitch inspection has been called for 1.30pm, with news expected soon after as to whether the game will go ahead or not.
“We just want to play,” said McGuckin.
“The lads are ready - they’ve watched footage of the opposition, talked through tactics, the opposition philosophy, formations.
“All they want to do now is get out on the pitch. Let’s hope the weather does not get in the way.
“What people can be sure of is that we will be trying our very best to get the game on.”
On the injury front, McGuckin revealed he will have a full-strength squad to choose from for the match, with no players reporting injured this week.
Kick-off this evening, weather permitting, is at 7pm at the Vic.
It’s pay on the gate, with tickets priced at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions. Hospitality spots can also be purchased online in advance.