FA YOUTH CUP: Spring urges Hatters U18s to embrace underdog tag at Ewood Park

Hatters U18s celebrate their FA Youth Cup quarter-final win at Watford in 1997
Hatters U18s celebrate their FA Youth Cup quarter-final win at Watford in 1997

Former Luton Town midfielder Matt Spring has urged the club’s U18s to embrace their role as underdogs on the big stage this evening.

The Hatters travel to Ewood Park to face Blackburn Rovers in the quarter-final of the FA Youth Cup tonight, with a potential meeting against Chelsea if they can get through.

The Luton Town U18s class of 1996-97

The Luton Town U18s class of 1996-97

Spring was part of the side who last reached the last eight back in 1996-97, where they got as far as the final four before losing to Leeds United.

Spring said: “The best advice I could give to the youth team waiting for their time to shine on the big stage at Blackburn is remember that everyone loves an underdog.

“There’s no pressure on the team, so if they can stick together and give it their all, you never know what can happen.”

On his time in the youth ranks at Kenilworth Road, Spring continued: “When I joined Luton in 1995/96 as a YTS, I didn’t really know much about the FA Youth Cup, but the good thing about my youth team was we all got on so well.

“There’s no pressure on the team, so if they can stick together and give it their all, you never know what can happen.”

Matt Spring

“All bar a few stayed in digs and shared with a team-mate.

“Looking back now that was a big part of the bonding and growing up, while it was many years later I realised that team I played in was very special.

“You had two or three very good players that went on to be top Premiership players like Matt Upson, Emmerson Boyce and Gary Doherty.

“Then there were a few others that went on to have good professional careers in the lower leagues.”

The programme from Hatters' U18s FA Youth Cup quarter-final in 1997

The programme from Hatters' U18s FA Youth Cup quarter-final in 1997

When asked about playing against the likes of Jonathan Woodgate and Harry Kewell in the FA Youth Cup, Spring added: “My first experience was as a 15-year-old, in the third round away at Liverpool.

“I needed to take the day off school because the game was midweek and the bus was leaving Luton at 9am.

“We lost that night 5-0 I think, but the Liverpool team had some very good players.

“The following season reaching the semi-final was massive for a team like Luton.

“If I remember correctly Crystal Palace from our league were in the other semi final and I remember thinking ‘I wish we had got Crystal Palace in the semi’s’ because we had beaten them twice in the league.

“But the game against Leeds was massive for all the lads, their team was full of players that went on to have very good careers.

“Looking back now and gaining that experience of playing at Elland Road at a young age in front of a big crowd helped me along the way. It’s a shame Leeds were just that little bit too strong for us over the two legs, but I did have something to take away from the home game, as I scored one of, if not my best goal ever, a 30-yarder into the top corner!”