Shots Youth vs Oxford City

The Shots enter the FA Youth Cup tonight with a Preliminary Round tie against Oxford City and, with two League wins from two to start the season, manager Scott Harrison is now dreaming of cup glory! “It’s massive for players and coaches,” he begins. “This is an opportunity for the boys to show what they can do. There will be scouts watching them, and it is a showcase for their talent. They’ve got to take the chance while they have it. We’ve looked at Oxford City, they have a big youth set-up and they won’t be easy. They’ll be looking to cause an upset.” The FA Youth Cup remains the pinnacle of Academy football, and can be a major factor in young players deciding which club to join. Three wins from entering the first round proper, and five away from a potential draw against Premier League giants like Chelsea and Manchester City, Harrison wants to put The Shots in exalted company. “Boys I’ve been speaking to have asked me if we play in the FA Youth Cup. That’s what they want to know. It’s great exposure. I’d like to pit our wits against a League club and see what our boys have got. It’s a chance for players to play at a big ground and see exactly what they can do. Or we could get a big club at home and it would be great for the team, the club as a whole, and the community. “I’m not going to say that we’re going to win it, of course, but you don’t know how far we can go. The FA Cup can fire their imagination. And if we do progress, that can only be good for the first team and in attracting new players.” Just over two months into the job, Harrison has already made a major impact on and off the pitch. “It’s been a quick two months, but it’s been good,” he smiles, after beginning the Ryman West season with victories against Staines Town and Northwood. “I’m enjoying it. There’s a good atmosphere around the place, as the players realise that we are good enough to compete and make the Academy a success.” Late August isn’t just a time for big money moves across the world, it can also be a crucial period in a boy’s burgeoning career, and Aldershot Town have been quick to provide an alternative route into professional football for those players who thought their dream might be over. “We’ve got some decent players who had been released by other clubs this summer and the standard has really been raised,” explains Scott. “We’re getting boys from some well-established League clubs and they know us as a former League club. There’s now a lot competition for places and I think that will push the team further.” All of which is testament to best practice, and simply doing things the right way, to ensure that the Academy environment is conducive to producing the best players possible. “We’ve implemented a new timetable into the programme, with a new syllabus. We’re monitoring their strength and conditioning more, and using video analysis to work on things that they will need in game situations. “Hopefully these things that we’re putting in place will, if the Club do return to the Football League, help us get the EPPP category status that we want. We’re doing the things that the League clubs are doing even though we don’t have the Football League money.” In addition to the well-established senior Academy structure, Harrison is also introducing new age-group teams from under-9 to under-16 from January. “It will be a part-time Academy run on a full-time philosophy,” he stresses. “We’ll look to push those boys into our under-17 side, which gives us a ready-made squad with the sort of continuity which will help us progress. We want to get the best young players in this area playing for Aldershot Town.” Aldershot Town v Oxford City kicks off at 7.45pm tonight at Cove FC’s Oak Farm Stadium on Squirrel Lane. Admission is £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. The winner of the tie will host Alton Town in the first qualifying round, in the week commencing 22 September.