Excitement is mounting for West Ham United's promising youngsters tonight as Bolton Wanderers visit the Boleyn Ground for the third round of the FA Youth Cup.
Tony Carr's young side have been preparing all week for the huge encounter and the aim is to get that all-important victory that will send them into the next round and another home tie against Port Vale. Despite knowing who waits, Carr said all minds were focused on Bolton and that there was not much more of an incentive then playing in front of a strong home crowd.
"The boys have been looking forward to this and have been working hard in training to prepare fully for it," said Carr, whose mind switched solely to this challenge after the 2-1 home success against Portsmouth on Saturday. "I rested a few players in our league match at the weekend, to keep a few fresh legs. We can't wait for the match to come around now and show what we can do."
Carr said he expected a tough test against Bolton, but was instilling into his youngsters that that all they can do against unfamiliar opposition is worry about their own game. "It will be a hard match, but I have told the lads that we have to let them get on with their football and we worry about we have to do," said Carr.
"Bolton have been down to watch us on occasions so maybe know a little bit about us, but it works both ways and as I said, it's what we do and how we do it on the night that is important. There have been some shocks in the other rounds coming into this game and we were disappointed to have gone out at this stage last season, so the determination to win and go into the next round is most definitely there."
For some of the youngsters, it will be their first time playing at the Boleyn Ground, but Carr is confident they will perform. "It's a bigger stage for some of them, but we are in pretty good form of late. While there will be a few nerves that's only natural, but I think we if we play our best then we have more than a chance."
Striker Freddie Sears has recovered well from a foot injury and a chest infection, which kept him on the sidelines recently and England youth international defender Jordan Spence is also a mainstay of the team. After years of leading academy teams into the FA Youth Cup, Carr admits his enthusiasm is burning as brightly as ever.
"I still get a huge buzz out of it all," he said. "I have experienced both highs and lows, with different teams in different years, so know what it is like on the glory side of things and on the other not so glorious side. Each season has brought another challenge and I am as hungry as ever to succeed with the team I have. What we will be looking to do is score at least one more goal than Bolton and get that victory."