After sharing a pitch with some of Wanderers’ biggest ever names, a number of the Whites’ young players must switch their sights to the FA Youth Cup tonight.
Half-a-dozen members of the youth squad were involved in Sunday’s fund-raiser against a Bolton All Stars XI.
They included Mitch Henry and Arran Pettifer, who have also figured at first-team level this season in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Max Conway, Matthew Tweedley and Joel Burgess came on in the second half in front of over 13,000 fans, who came to support the Gethin Jones’ MND appeal and see former favourites like Ivan Campo, Jay Jay Okocha, Ricrado Gardner, Stelios Giannakopouls and Kevin Davies.
An FA Youth Cup second-round tie at neighbours Accrington Stanley (KO 7pm) might not look so glamorous but is still a big fixture on the calendar as Wanderers look to progress and secure a home tie with Swansea City in the next round.
“It was a fantastic experience for them,” said Julian Darby – who also featured in Sunday’s game and will be stepping up from his role with the club’s younger Academy sides to lead the U18s at Stanley due to a bout of Covid in the camp.
“To be on the same pitch as some world-class stars is something they won’t forget but this is their nitty gritty.
“This is cup football and about finding a way to win a game.”
Wanderers received a walk-over in round one after Hartlepool United withdrew from the competition, while Stanley advanced with a 4-3 win over Wigan Athletic.
Both sides play in the EFL’s Youth Alliance North-West Division, with Stanley currently sitting a couple of places higher in fifth place.
But Darby hopes his young charges can rise to the occasion and try and launch a run in the competition.
“All the lads look forward to this one,” added the former midfielder, who started his League career as a teenager with Wanderers.
“It’s the competition where they get to play on first-team grounds and if we could get through all the big clubs come in in the next round.
“It will be a tough game, though. Accrington are a big, strong side who knocked out Wigan, who always have a good youth set-up.
“They won their last game 7-2 so have a bit of form coming into the game but we also played well in a 1-1 draw with Preston at the weekend so we’ll be going there to have a go, show what we’re about and try to get into the next round.”
Tickets for the game tonight (Tuesday) can be bought at the Wham Stadium up to kick-off, priced £5 and £2 for U16s.