UNDER-18s head coach John Perkins hopes that his side can progress to the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round with victory over Derby County this evening.
The young Potters make the short trip down the A50 to take on the Rams at the newly-named iPro Stadium for a 7pm kick-off knowing that the winners will face a home tie against Newcastle United in the next round.
The side have struggled for form since the turn of the year but Perkins revealed to stokecityfc.com his squad should be looking forward to the game.
“If they can’t enjoy these sorts of matches then they shouldn’t be in the game because it is a great cup competition to play in,” Perkins said.
“The run we have been on recently hasn’t been up to expectation both individually and collectively as a group but we hope that will change as they continue to learn.
“We expect better from the lads and want them to just show a bit more out on the pitch because they are more than capable of producing good performances and results.”
The Potters face a side who reached this stage of the competition after a 4-3 home win over fellow Championship team Wigan Athletic and Perkins knows they will provide a stern test.
“We know a bit about them and they are a good team with young Mason Bennett up front who has been with their first team this season,” he said.
“It will be a really difficult game because I think they knocked Chelsea out of the competition last year before eventually losing to Manchester United which proves they have got good pedigree in the tournament.
“They will be a well organised side and although they scored four goals in the previous round they did however concede three so it will prove to be a good test for us.”
The manager meanwhile says dealing with playing on a big stage can prove difficult for some young stars but hopes that his side can overcome that barrier on the night.
“My experience with young players, especially when they are in front of first team staff and a bigger crowd, is that they can sometimes freeze in the limelight,” added Perkins.
“I’ve seen less experienced players go one way and do really well by embracing the occasion but at the same time there have been instances where some so called experienced lads fall foul on the night and probably don’t do as well as they would have wanted.
“At this level what you are looking for is that bit of consistency and character from the players and for them to do the things they are best at out on the football pitch.”