Andy Awford prepared for tomorrow night’s FA Youth Cup showdown with Southend at Fratton Park (7pm) and told his young guns: This is when results really matter.
The Blues’ popular former skipper continues to do a fine job as Academy boss under the club’s ongoing financial shackles.
He is looking at the bigger picture on a daily basis in developing players.
But the FA Youth Cup takes on a different edge, with winning taking on far more importance than usual.
Awford explained: ‘I don’t put pressure on any of the Academy teams at any of the age groups to get results.
‘Our results are about producing first-team players in the future.
‘But the FA Youth Cup is different. This is the time we say “okay, let’s win”.
‘Obviously, we want to win all the time.
‘We will never go out to lose on a Saturday morning and we want to instil a winning mentality. But the result is secondary.
‘We are looking more at the performance and development of players and we experiment with things to set the boys different challenges and give them experience.
‘But you want to get a run in the FA Youth Cup so you want to win the game.
‘There is definitely more emphasis on getting a result in this one.’
A home tie with Carshalton Athletic or Woking awaits the winners and Awford is hopeful the evening atmosphere and a decent crowd will lift his troops to success.
Awford said: ‘There was always something special about playing at Fratton under the floodlights when I played.
‘And with the tickets at £3 for adults and £1 for under-17s, I’m hoping a few people will come out to cheer on the lads.
‘As we’re a League One club, we’ve come in at the first-round stage and we’ve got a toughie.
‘We played Southend earlier in the season and drew 1-1.
‘They are well-organised and a decent side. It was a tight game and we expect the same this time.
‘But we’re in decent form, we’re looking a lot more solid and difficult to beat and we’re going into the game in good spirits.’
Awford, whose side beat Aldershot 1-0 in the Youth Alliance Cup thanks to a James Hartson goal at the weekend, also spoke of his pride at Adam Webster’s international recognition after the young defender’s England under-18 call-up.
The Blues Academy boss said: ‘Adam fully deserves his recognition and it’s great for him, the staff and the club. We’re all really pleased and very proud of him.
‘We’ve had him at the club since the under-nines and it shows that there can be a path through the system all the way to the England set-up.
‘It’s nice to have some positive news about the club.’