Cambridge United hope to use inside knowledge to counter Spurs under-21s in Papa John’s Trophy
Cambridge United will be aiming to all but confirm qualification to the next round of the Papa John’s Trophy with victory over Tottenham Hotspur under-21 tomorrow night (September 21, kick off 7pm).
The U’s earned an impressive 4-1 win over Oxford United in the first round, while Spurs defeated Stevenage 4-3, which means a triumph should be enough for the victors to progress from Group H.
United head coach Mark Bonner is anticipating a difficult test against the youngsters from the Premier League club.
“I think we’re expecting a good side,” he said. “Tottenham had a good win against Stevenage in the first game, and they’ve got some strong players in there.
“I think they had five or six missing internationals from the last game so we will expect their team to change a little bit.
“It’s hard to know so much about exactly what is going to show up. Your knowledge of the opposition is less, and you have less games and footage to go on to try to draw those comparisons.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to keep playing, and a positive result will secure a qualification which is obviously our aim for the night.
“We’re looking forward to seeing a few other boys that haven’t played so much recently, and make the most of it as we did in the previous game.”
The U’s have in their ranks two former Spurs players, Jubril Okedina and Shilow Tracey, who both moved to the Abbey from the North London club in the summer.
“We’ve got two insiders,” said Bonner.
“I’m not sure they can give us too much but I’m hoping they can give us some level of detail when we get their team sheet tomorrow, so we know a bit about them.
“We’ve done our work as normal but the fact that those two will know a number of the players quite well may help us and give us a bit more of an idea.
“But we feel like we’ve got a basic knowledge of what to expect from Tottenham.
“I think, like any time you play these teams, you talk about really talented young players that are trying to make that jump into senior football.
“Sometimes you know what the downsides of a team of younger players can be, but what you certainly expect - and we’ve seen this in the past when we’ve played these games - is a really athletic team, playing with good tempo and technically very comfortable.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how we bridge that challenge.”
There is a good rapport between the two clubs.
United having crossed paths with Spurs under-23 coach Wayne Burnett in the past, both with Dagenham & Redbridge and in the pre-season friendly between the teams, while Bonner is doing his UEFA Pro-Licence with Ryan Mason, who is head of player development within the Spurs academy.
“They are good people, and I think Tottenham’s reputation and development as an academy has been exceptional,” said Bonner.
“They have certainly got something in place that I think will serve them really well, whether that was John McDermott’s era before going on to be technical director at the FA and now Dean Rastrick (Spurs’ academy manager) and others really leading the way there as a club.
“It’s a club we’ve got a fairly good link with I think, and we’re looking forward to seeing those, and a fairly good night as we’re expecting a decent crowd as well.”
Leon Davies is likely to be involved for United, but Liam Bennett and Mamadou Jobe, who impressed in the win over Oxford, will miss out as they are out on youth loans which does not give them permission to play.
“If they went out on a longer term loan rather than a youth loan they could have played in it,” said Bonner .
“The rules are a bit mad to be honest. I think they could make a very simple switch and allow youth loan players to play in the competition just to make it a little bit easier.
“In the end, you are preventing some of your young players playing in a couple of these games but you trade off the one game for the seven or eight they are going to go and play instead.
“That is the balance you are always trying to strike to make sure they do play.”