Stadium of Light final a 'magnificent opportunity' for South Shields' brightest talents
Lee Picton feels tonight’s Durham Challenge Cup final at the Stadium of Light will provide a “magnificent opportunity” for some of South Shields’ brightest talents.
The Mariners are facing two games in two days, with the final against Shildon to be followed by the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-off final against Warrington Town tomorrow.
Because of the short proximity between the two matches, Shields are expected to field a youthful side against Shildon, featuring many of the players who shone on the club’s run to the final.
The club has also received special dispensation to include left-back Anthony Callaghan and academy defender Joe Lockey in the squad for the first time this season, because of the unusual circumstances.
Joint manager Picton says the club’s youngsters will relish their chance to shine on such a big stage, and is confident they have what it takes to overcome the Northern League side.
He said: “This is a magnificent opportunity for a lot of our academy players, who have worked tirelessly all season. It’s a great reward for their dedication and commitment since they’ve been at the club.
“We genuinely believe in these players and although we have great respect for Shildon, we also go into the game with a really strong conviction that we can win it if the boys can deal with the occasion in the right way mentally.”
The club’s academy will also play at the home grounds of Walsall and Port Vale FC next Wednesday and Thursday respectively in national finals.
Picton is excited about their future.
He added: “This game will mark the first of three high-profile finals that the academy are involved in over the next seven days, and we should all be massively proud of the progress and success that the academy has enjoyed in the two short years since its inception.
“I’m sure everyone will agree that it bodes well for the long-term future of the club overall and we look forward to seeing the continued progress of some of the individuals that have really stood out at that level.
“Some of the academy players involved will hopefully draw on the experience they gained earlier in the season playing at Sincil Bank to hopefully overcome the mental challenges of trying to perform at such a big venue as the Stadium of Light.
“Next week they will also pick up valuable experience from playing at the Banks’s Stadium and Vale Park, which might help to prepare them for some of the stadiums our first-team will hopefully be playing at regularly in the long-term future.”
South Shields squad for the Durham Challenge Cup final: Lister, Brown, Callaghan, Lockey, Mouanda, Patterson, Biwer, Guy, Ross, Scott, Thompson, Wright, Bell, Colquhoun, Cowburn, Harmison.