Boyhood Preston North End supporter and current PNE U18 defender Finlay Wallbank said it’ll be “massive” for him to play under the lights at Deepdale on Thursday evening.
PNE will take to the main stage in their FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Southampton, which gets underway at 7pm, with a semi-final tie against West Ham United up for grabs.
Finlay – in the second year of his scholarship – has featured in each round of the competition so far, including the third round tie against Rotherham United, which was also played at Deepdale.
That game, which ended in a 6-1 victory, had to be played mid-afternoon due to freezing conditions, though, so a bigger crowd is expected on Thursday night.
Finlay said: “It’ll be absolutely huge. There’ll be nerves with all of us, but those nerves will be squashed quite early I think when we get the ball down and start playing.
“It’ll be massive to play in front of a crowd under the lights at Deepdale, and I think we’re all just looking forward to it now.
“I think it’s going to be good. I think there’s going to be a few on which is better than last time because unfortunately it was earlier, so it’ll be good to play in front of all the people, especially at your home ground as well.
“Being from Preston, it’s massive to play at Deepdale and hopefully we can get a result.”
Finlay’s not the only local lad set to represent North End, though, with the likes of Finlay Cross-Adair and Kian Taylor also both huge PNE supporters.
There can never be a question of fight or desire from the young Lilywhites, even more so because of their links to the club.
“A lot of us – even before we were at North End – knew each other,” he said.
“We played football before the youth team and it’s good to have that close bond in football and outside of it as well.
“There’s a lot of local lads so there’s a tight bond between the group and we’re all on the same wavelength knowing what we want and how to get that.
“It’s my boyhood club so getting results and winning trophies with them is absolutely massive and it’s got that bit of pride about it.”
PNE’s route to this stage of the tournament has been far from simple, facing some difficult tests away at Gillingham and Luton Town in the previous two rounds respectively.
On paper, Thursday’s visitors Southampton will pose the toughest test, currently sitting seventh in the U18 Premier League among some of the country’s best youth outfits.
They made it to the quarter-final thanks to a 3-2 victory over Fulham and Finlay tuned into that game, which was played the night after North End had done their bit to progress.
He said: “They’re a good side; they’re like every Category 1 team.
“They’re good on the ball, but we think we can hurt them. We think we can play our game and we think we can get a result.
“It’s massively important [we think that] because we’ve got to have that belief.
“If we don’t and we don’t have that confidence then we’re not going to perform how we usually do, but I think we go into every game with confidence.
“We know we’re a good group and we can get results if we work hard.”