Kelly: Pompey Academy will relish Leicester tie

Pompey Academy boss Mark Kelly
Pompey Academy boss Mark Kelly
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Mark Kelly insists Pompey Academy will play on the front foot against Leicester City in the FA Youth Cup at Fratton Park tonight (7pm).

The Blues’ youth chief has told his troops to embrace the third-round battle against their Premier League opponents.

Pompey have exited the prestigious competition to top-flight opposition in the past two years.

They lost 2-1 to eventual runners-up Manchester City in 2015, while last year the young Blues suffered a 4-1 defeat to Newcastle United.

Kelly’s side are yet again the underdogs heading into the Leicester clash.

The Foxes currently sit second in the Premier League under-18 south division and are a Category One academy.

The temptation could be for Pompey to sit back and try to nick a goal on the counter-attack.

But Kelly is adamant his side will play with confidence and bravery.

‘We’re up against Premier League opposition – we have been in the past couple of years,’ the academy chief said.

‘It’s the same again, really. The boys are going to enjoy the challenge, they’re going to embrace it and hopefully put in a good performance.

‘The boys know they’re going to have to work hard.

‘Leicester are a big club with big money, but our boys won’t be on the back foot against them.

‘They’ll play on the front foot and we’ll see if we can make a game of it.

‘They’re relishing the battle and are at Fratton Park again.

‘It’s good for them that they’re at home and in front of their own supporters.

‘These are the type of games the boys want to play in.

‘They work hard all year and have the opportunity to play against Premier League opposition at their home ground.

‘It’s going to be something they are going to enjoy.’

Pompey battled to an extra-time victory at Gillingham in the first round of the FA Youth Cup.

They then defeated non-league Lewes 3-1 at Fratton Park to set up an exciting tie against Leicester.

For the majority of the young Blues, it will be the biggest game of their careers to date.

Kelly believes his fledgling talents are well prepared for the tie.

He feels if his troops want to have a career in the professional game then it is vital they overcome any pre-match nerves.

Kelly added: ‘It’s the biggest game for some of the lads in their careers so far.

‘That’s what happens in the FA Youth Cup. It’s an opportunity for them to get out and work as a group.

‘It’s a game of football, two sides going at it.

‘The boys know they are going to have to do their jobs – that’s all of them – but they’re prepared for that.

‘If they want to be a professional footballer then that’s what the job is.

‘This is a major part of what it’s all about and it’s going to be great for them.

‘Leicester are doing well in a strong Category One academy league.

‘But it’s a game we have got to try to produce something in and the boys are looking forward to it.’