Aldershot Town Academy Manager Lee Collier goes into tonight’s Hampshire Midweek Floodlit Cup Final at the EBB Stadium in confident mood – and asks Shots fans to cheer his team to victory!
“I want fans to see the talent that we have in the Academy,” he explains, as The Shots host Tadley Calleva at 7.45pm, “to support the boys and enjoy the Final. Any match under the lights at the EBB is a great occasion and tonight this Club can win a trophy. At any level that’s important, and this is an exciting day. We’re proud of these players and I want the Club to be proud of them too.”
The Final comes at the end of another successful season for the Academy, in which they have also challenged for both the Ryman Youth League and Conference Youth Alliance championships, and tonight, says Collier, is a reward for those efforts.
“It’s a great way to finish the season. It’s been a long season but for the boys to play in a final, under the lights at our home ground, is a fantastic opportunity and richly deserved. The boys need to savour that experience and also enjoy it – but we will also make sure that they understand the importance of the occasion,” he stresses, mindful of the cliché that a Final is only enjoyable when you win. “It’s a one-off game and we know it won’t be easy. They have to prepare properly. Alan (Tate) and myself will take any pressures they are feeling off them so that they can go out and perform, and hopefully win a trophy.”
Although The Shots start tonight as favourites on home turf, Collier will ensure his players do not underestimate Tadley Calleva. “I know their threats and their strengths – they’ve got to a Final, the same as us, so we’re going to pay them the respect they deserve,” he says of a team who beat Andover Town in the semi-finals having twice progressed via penalty shoot-outs in earlier rounds. “We’ll prepare the same as we prepare for every game. We know that we’re in for a very tough game but if the boys perform to their maximum then we’ve got every opportunity.”
Whatever tonight’s result, however, Collier will be proud of his players and what this success represents for the long-term prosperity of the Academy.
“They’ve made fantastic progression, we couldn’t have asked for any more,” he praises, “and this is their reward for all of the hard work that they’ve put in every day – on the training pitch, around the ground, at College. This shows the kind of rewards you can get if you put in the hard work.
“We’re laying the foundations of what we want to build here – we’re doing this for Aldershot Town, not just the Academy. We’re looking five, six, seven years into the future, and something which is sustainable. I’ve still got a lot of plans to put in place here, and improvements that I want to make – I want to make sure that we don’t have to start again every two or three years, and ensure that the legacy is there for them to build on.
“I want to create an Academy that the Club, the fans and the whole town can be proud of, and ultimately produce players for the first-team.”
Admission at the EBB Stadium is £4 for adults and £2 for concessions, with children under 10 admitted free.