Hull City's young stars 'have earned' Liverpool test at KC Stadium
HULL City academy boss Billy Russell believes his precocious side have earned their big night out at the KC Stadium after reaching the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 22 years.
A 3-1 extra-time win over Leicester City on Wednesday night saw the Tigers join an illustrious place in the club's history, becoming only the fifth City team to qualify for the last eight of the prestigious tournament.
The just reward is a home tie against Liverpool and guarantees a first FA Youth Cup fixture to be staged at the KC in six years.
Russell is thrilled to see his young side on the verge of creating history by winning a place in the semi-finals and says a night under the KC's floodlights will see the dreams of his team realised.
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"It's a great opportunity for the boys," Russell told the Mail.
"A lot of the boys have been with the club since the age of nine and this will be their first chance to play at the KC. That will be fantastic because the majority of the boys are Hull City supporters.
"It's also great for the whole youth development set-up. You could see it meant an awful lot to plenty of people here and it's a reward for those people as well as the boys."
A decision on the date of the quarter-final is expected to be made today following consultation with Liverpool, who beat Leeds 3-1 at Anfield last night.
City's preference is for next Wednesday night at the KC where they will hope to break new ground with a place in the last four of the showpiece tournament.
This campaign is only the fifth time the Tigers have reached the last eight (previous quarter-final adventures came in 1964-65, 1968-69, 1970-71 and 1990-91) and came after high drama at North Ferriby on Wednesday.
Danny Chambers' deflected strike cancelled out Leicester's early opener, but it needed two goals from substitute Harry Cardwell deep into extra-time to guide the Tigers through a gripping encounter.
After holding their nerve to squeeze past Swansea City in the third round and at Northampton in the fourth round, victory over Leicester again showcased the resilience of Russell's side.
"I think it's a reflection of how long they've been together," said Russell.
"They're friends as well as team-mates who have grown up alongside each other. That shows in the way they compete for every ball.
"They see that when they go and watch the first-team. You need that work ethic to be a success.
"I've been drumming that into them for years and after Wednesday night I told them that's the reason why I've given them such a hard time.
"Credit to them, they dealt with the victory well. They didn't go over the top, they took it in their stride and stayed humble.
"It's just another step on the journey and it's important not to be getting carried away."
City's progress has been a feather in the cap of Russell's youth ranks and owed plenty to the heroics of centre-forward Cardwell.
Despite playing for the Tigers' under-16s, the South Hunsley School pupil has scored extra-time winners to sink both Swansea and Leicester.
"Harry's still a young boy, but at crucial times he's been a great impact player," added Russell. "He's quick and he's got an eye for goal.
"Like a lot of the lads, he's a Hull City fan and he'll be looking forward to the next round with a tie at the KC Stadium.
"It's been a collective effort to get us this far, though, and to a man I thought we were fantastic."
The ground-breaking achievements of the under-18s have not gone unnoticed by first-team boss Steve Bruce.
"It's wonderful," said the City manager. "I'm absolutely delighted for the lads because it's a terrific achievement to get this far.
"They're going to have a big game on their hands at the KC, so it's great both for them and for all the staff, who work so hard to make sure they've got the makings of a very good side."