Ahead of tomorrow night's FA Youth Cup First Round fixture against Basford United, we caught up with Frank Sinclair regarding the under-18's and their progress since returning from an enforced two-week isolation.
Head of Coaching Development Sinclair, is expecting a challenging game for Vale and hails the FA Youth Cup's status as the pinaccle of youth football.
“The boys will be really excited for tomorrow, playing against a Basford side that have got through four rounds to get to this stage of the competition,” said our Head of Coaching Development.
“They’ve obviously shown a lot of spirit and the fact they’ve beaten Lincoln United is a warning to us, and we’ll have to be right at it on the day.”
“I’m really excited for the players, because they’ve worked ever so hard, and now we’ve got Billy Paynter and Anthony Griffith in now, and I’m really pleased with where it is all going.”
Sinclair has fond memories of the Youth Cup, after having taken part in the competition during his playing days.
“I was fortunate enough to play in the FA Youth Cup for three years, because I played in it for a year whilst I was at school.”
“For me, it’s the biggest competition you can play in as a youth player.”
Should Vale progress past the first round of the cup, some big names could await them in the hat for next stages of the competition, something that Sinclair thinks should motivate the players.
“The winners of our game will play Grimsby at home, and for me there should be no bigger incentive in that we could have the opportunity to do this all over again in the next round.”
“We expect that we’ll have to earn everything we get tomorrow night, and the boys are very aware of that.”
Despite there being no fans allowed to attend tomorrow evening’s clash, Sinclair feels that the players should be motivated enough to progress through the first-round tie.
“If you want fans in the ground, we need to stay in the competition, it’s as simple as that really.”
“Hopefully things will change at the turn of the year, but if we can stay in the competition until that point, then there is a great chance of playing in front of fans.”
“We took the lads round the stadium today, so that they won’t be stargazing tomorrow evening, and will be fully focused on the game itself.”
Sinclair is looking to improve the academy side in all departments, and spoke of how he feels GPS systems could help reduce injuries and improve the finer details of the players.
“If we get GPS, that means there’s no grey areas for the players and the coaching staff.”
“It helps us to identify what players are doing well and what they could be doing better.”
“For me, it’s good preparation for the lads for if and when they eventually get into the first team.”
And raising the category level of the academy is something Sinclair is eventually aiming to do.
“Raising the category level is something we’re talking about, and it’s something that Carol (Shanahan) is very ambitious about doing.”
“We’re not going to rush it; we’re going to do it properly.”
“Everything that we’re talking about is positive, and I’m really excited about where we can be in four or five years time.”
In regards to first team matters, Sinclair feels that John Askey’s side have started the season in fine fashion, and are well on track to achieve their objectives.
“It’s been a terrific start to the season.”
“The aim is to be in and around the play-offs or even go one better and achieve automatic promotion.”
“It’s been difficult at times because the gaffer has had to chop and change his team with injuries [and Saturday's absence of Rodney, Whitehead & Fitzpatrick] so far, but from what I’ve seen we’ve carried last season’s momentum into this season.”
With this season’s FA Youth Cup journey beginning tomorrow, it is only just the beginning of an exciting few years ahead for our Academy setup.