'We're on a journey that the players don't want to stop' - Atay on today's big FA Youth Cup quarter-final
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town Under-18s manager Adem Atay says his players aren't ready for their incredible FA Youth Cup journey to come to an end just yet.
The young Blues take on Sheffield United in the quarter-finals at Portman Road tonight (5pm ko), with a home tie against either Liverpool or Arsenal awaiting the victors.
This is the furthest Town have progressed in the prestigious competition since they won it back in 2005 and they are the only club outside of the Premier League to make it to the final eight.
Sheffield United are the only other Category Two academy club left standing, with West Brom and Aston Villa having already made it to the semis on the other side of the draw.
"We're on a real positive journey that the players don't want to stop," said Atay, whose side have claimed two Category One scalps along the way, coming from 2-0 down at half-time to beat Fulham in dramatic late fashion at Portman Road, while netting late to beat Middlesbrough 1-0 away in the last round.
"We appreciate that Sheffield United will be thinking the same thing. They've got this far for a reason, they are a threat and they've got good players - but so have we.
"We're two very closely matched clubs and it'll be about who plays best on the night.
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"The fact we have beaten two Cat One teams has given the group a lot of confidence and a lot of belief. We've had challenging moments in all those games and it's a running joke with the boys that I keep using two words; 'adaptability' and 'adversity'. Hopefully they can take every bit of experience they've had so far into this game.
"They're embracing the excitement, the pressure and the challenge that they'e going to face.
"Ultimately they've got to go out and enjoy it because that's what it's all about. Go out and enjoy these moments and trust in what they work on every day.
"It's a real good opportunity, once again, to showcase their abilities and their talent in front of staff and anyone who is watching. It's just a real shame we can't have spectators there for them."
Atay continued: "We're the only team left in the competition that had to come in at round one.
"They've been doing the club proud and I'm sure they will continue to do so.
"Whether we get through or not they'll be able to look back and be pleased with themselves. They've made some incredible memories. But, as I say, I know they don't want this journey to stop just yet.
"They're certainly ready to give everything they've got."
On the prospect of facing either Liverpool or Arsenal in the semis, Atay said: "We all sit here saying 'focus on the next game', but everybody will be aware of who the potential opposition is.
"We have to just park that and focus on the process of making sure you perform right on the night. Then afterwards, if everything has gone well, you can get excited by the draw.
"But if you get carried away by what can happen you lose sight of what you need to do in the moment."
TOWN'S 20/21 FA YOUTH CUP RUN
First round: Southend United 4-1 (h)
Second round: Chelmsford City 5-0 (a)
Third round: 3-2 Fulham (h)
Fourth round: 3-1 Swindon (h)
Fifth round: Middlesbrough 1-0 (a)