Coach Billy Russell urges Hull City rookies to focus on Leicester City
BILLY Russell is urging his Hull City rookies not to let the prospect of a tie at the KC Stadium distract them from the task in hand when they host Leicester City in the FA Youth Cup tonight.
After seeing the original fifth round fixture postponed due to heavy snow a fortnight ago, City's under-18s will again eye a place in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1991 when the Foxes visit the Rapid Solicitors Stadium in North Ferriby (7pm).
If City are able to add Leicester to a list of scalps that already includes Swansea and Northampton, a glamour last-eight tie against either Liverpool or Leeds United at the KC Stadium will be their tasty reward.
Russell is aware of the carrot dangling in front of his youngsters, but stressed the only focus must be on the challenge of Leicester this evening.
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"It's the oldest cliche in football, but you can only take one game at a time," he told the Mail.
"This tournament is always a big deal for the lads, but you'll always trip up if you start looking too far ahead of yourself.
"We know Leicester will be a very tough opponent and that's where all of our focus will be.
"It's a cup game and it's all about who holds their nerve now.
"We've shown a lot of character in the last two rounds and the challenge will be exactly the same.
"You need to embrace the occasion, give a good account of yourself and make sure you don't come off the pitch with any regrets because there's no worse feeling than that."
City have needed to be patient to get this far. After seeing off Swansea 3-2 in extra-time in the third round, a twice-postponed trip to Northampton eventually saw them earn a dogged 1-0 win at the Sixfields Stadium last month.
The scheduled clash with Leicester two weeks ago had both teams arrive at North Ferriby, only for snowfall to bring another postponement an hour before kick-off.
"These things happen," said Russell. "It was very frustrating for all the players to get so close to the game.
"Leicester had arrived and everything looked set, but then the snow came down and there was no chance of us playing."
The last time City's under-18s enjoyed a fixture at the KC Stadium was a 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the 2006-07 FA Youth Cup.
In the Tigers' ranks that night was Will Atkinson, and he will be held up as an inspiration to the current crop after he helped Bradford City upset all the odds and claim a place in the Capital One Cup final.
Both Russell and right-hand man Neil Mann were in attendance at Wembley to cheer on Atkinson in the 5-0 loss to Swansea on Sunday.
Russell added: "It was obviously a disappointing day for Will, but he did himself proud getting there.
"All of the lads can look up to Will as a Hull City product and want to follow in his footsteps.
"It's been great to watch his progress with Bradford and I know the boys have looked up to him."