Southampton’s Under-18s go head-to-head with Manchester City in the Under-18 Premier League National Final at St Mary’s on Thursday …
Saints vs Manchester City
Under-18s Premier League National Final
St Mary’s Stadium
Thursday 19th May, 7pm BST
The culmination of a hugely successful season, the champions of the Under-18 Premier League South and North divisions do battle on the south coast in a bid to claim national glory.
Being crowned champions of the Under-18 Premier League South title for just the second time in the club’s history earlier this month with victory over Reading at Staplewood Campus, Carl Martin’s side will be looking to do one better in front of the St Mary’s faithful on Thursday.
With a place in the UEFA Youth League for 2022/23 up for grabs when Manchester City visit SO14, it really is all to play for Southampton’s stars of the future.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
After finishing bottom of the Under-18 Premier League table in the 2020/21 season, it has been a remarkable comeback from Saints’ youngsters this time around.
It was an emphatic start to the season for Carl Martin's side, who claimed victory in their opening three fixtures against Norwich City, Birmingham City and West Ham United.
After a 3-3 draw with Arsenal, Saints then went on to suffer league defeats at the hands of Crystal Palace and Leicester City.
An incredible run then followed, though, claiming five league victories on the bounce to give them a chance of the title before the turn of the year.
Despite a difficult 2022 opener against Spurs, narrowly missing out in a 2-1 score line - a seven-game unbeaten run ensued.
With their title hopes in the balance after a 4-2 loss at Arsenal, Saints looked to finish the season on a high claiming notable victories over Chelsea and Crystal Palace to secure their title as Under-18 Premier League South champions.
Dom Ballard, Southampton's Scholar of the Year, leads the way for most goals scored for the Under-18s this season, netting 14 times in 16 appearances. With Luke Pearce and Kamari Doyle notching nine and eight goals respectively.
Similar to their senior team, Manchester City’s youngsters have performed consistently across the course of the season.
Suffering defeats to Manchester United and Wolves in their opening four games of the season, Ben Wilkinson’s side only faced one further league defeat in their run to becoming Under-18 Premier League North champions.
Currently on a seven match unbeaten run, including an impressive 13-0 victory over Newcastle United, the Manchester outfit will certainly bring the heat to St Mary’s.
Tickets for Thursday’s clash under the lights are FREE, with supporters advised to book in advance and secure their seat inside St Mary’s.
"We're looking forward to it," confessed Southampton's Under-18s Individual Coach Mikey Harris. "Obviously, you don't get many opportunities to play in a game like this - particularly at Under-18s.
"We're hoping for a big crowd at St Mary's because playing at a stadium in front of a crowd is not something that's easily replicated for the boys in their development. This will be a big moment for them on their journey so far and hopefully they can put in a performance they can be proud of.
"I think the boys have been outstanding the way they've bought into what we've tried to do in terms of the philosphy and the behaviours. I think the staff have been outstanding, really consistent with everything they've done.
"Hopefully they can carry on what they've been doing this season and do it in one more game and get one more excellent performance and who knows? Maybe we can pull off a result and make something special happen again.
"They will be a formidable opponent and these are the games you want to play in and you want to coach in because you want to test yourselves against the best teams.
"We know it'll be a difficult game and they're a really talented squad but we're a talented squad as well so we really hope we can put on a performance that everyone can be proud of.
"It would be incredible [to win] and it would be an amazing reward for everyone that's been with these players on their journey. It's not just about Carl or myself or the staff that have worked with them this year. It's everyone that has played a part in their journey over the years."