Oscar O’Neil says the Preston North End youth team know how they can beat Stoke City ahead of Monday’s historic FA Youth Cup quarter-final meeting at Deepdale.
Oscar has played in all three of those matches and he is now looking forward to Monday’s game, which will be the club’s first appearance at the last eight stage for over 50 years.
“It is a long time,” Oscar declared. “We know it’s a big achievement and we’re going to try our hardest to get through to the semi-finals.
“I think we’ve tried our hardest to prepare for these games properly and that’s what’s taken us through to these rounds, the hard work of the boys and just perseverance when its needed most.
“Now that we’ve played three games we understand the occasion, we understand the pitch, we know what to expect – we’ve done a lot of work on Stoke this week.
“In terms of the occasion, I think the boys haven’t really let it get to them yet. We’ve handled it quite well in all three games and I think it’s more of an excitement before the game; all the boys are excited to go out there and prove what they can do as a team and as individuals.”
The youth team’s first match of the cup run against Sheffield United gave Oscar and many others their first chance to play at Deepdale, while the second against Everton required a penalty shootout to see North End progress.
“It was a bit strange; I think every parent will understand what I’m saying here is that you’re actually more nervous for them,” Brian said of watching Oscar run out in PR1.
“I was quite fortunate that I never really suffered from nerves when I was playing football, but when he’s going up taking his penalty kick in the game against Everton I thought ‘I hope you don’t get your penalty kick skills from me’.
“He’s definitely surpassed me there because when I was taking a penalty kick against Rochdale in the cup, I missed mine. Thank goodness he doesn’t take that from me.”
Oscar added: “I’ve always wanted to play in such a massive stadium, I have never actually played in such a big stadium so to come here and play at Deepdale was great.
The father-son duo are not unique in the academy camp. Kian Smart and Lewis Fensome are also sons of past PNE players – striker Allan Smart and defender Andy Fensome.
Kian and Oscar often play together in central midfield, while Lewis was a regular in the backline at the start of the campaign before suffering a broken leg in October.
“I wouldn’t say it puts any extra pressure on us,” continued the first-year midfielder. “Obviously we know, we’re aware of it and people talk about it, but we’re not trying to make ourselves into the players that they were.
“We’re trying to progress ourselves individually and I guess that’s all we can do. Ki actually started off as a striker and you (looking to Brian) made him a centre mid, so I guess he did follow his (Allan’s path as well.
“Every game that I play, I learn from him how he played the game. It helps out a lot to have a parent that’s played in the position you’re trying to make a career in.”
Brian added: “I just wanted my kids to enjoy what they were doing.
“He’ll (Oscar) probably tell you, I’m his biggest critic. I try not to get on top of him, I want him to enjoy himself and express himself.
“We’ve got some family coming down from Scotland as well to watch, so it’s actually been a nice occasion for the whole family.”
If PNE can get past Stoke, a two-legged semi-final against Manchester City awaits – and Brian is expecting a competitive encounter.
“Stoke are a tough, tough team,” he continued. “But they will know when they come here that they’ve got a game on their hands, they know they’re going to be up against a tough team with boys who will run until they drop and can play as well.
“Fingers crossed they can do it on the night.”
Oscar concluded: “Who knows what we can go and do if we can win this game? But if we can go through it, I think we’ve got a great chance of creating even more memories.”