Everton Under-18s are set to play Burnley in the final of the Generali CEE Cup in the Czech Republic on Wednesday (5pm kick-off).
The young Blues earned the chance to play for the trophy following a 0-0 draw with Macedonian outfit Pandev Academy and back-to-back 6-0 victories against Györi, of Hungary, and FK Sarajevo, of Bosnia.
Under-18s coach Paul Tait has been delighted with his side’s commitment during their pre-season schedule - and says winning the tournament would provide the perfect platform for the 2017/18 season.
“We were back for a day after a week-long training camp in Slovenia then straight back on a plane out to Prague for this tournament,” Tait told evertonfc.com. “We have a mixed age group, so it’s been great for fitness but also for bonding as well.
“It’s been an intense couple of weeks and I’ve been very pleased. The work that they put in last week was of really high standard. They’ve all come back in great shape, ready to go - and that goes for both the first and second year scholars.
“They’ve done well in the games so far. We probably should have won the first game but it was a good clean sheet, then we got off to great starts in both of the other games, played some lovely football and managed to record two convincing wins. The semi-final against Sarajevo was particularly pleasing. They were physically very strong and I’d watch them beat Leicester 2-0 the day before, but the lads played well and got the job done.
“Winning the tournament will give the lads a huge confidence boost and the perfect platform to build on. We’re looking forward to the new season, with plenty of new first-year scholars trying to get into the team and the second-year scholars looking to push on and earn professional contracts. It’s a big season for everyone.”
The Blues take on the Clarets in Dolicek in what will be an all-English final for the first time in the competition’s history.
Lining up in the opposition’s dugout will be former Everton striker Danny Cadamarteri, who was appointed Burnley’s Under-18s coach at the beginning of this month.
And Tait is expecting a battle against Cadamarteri’s side, having known his opposite number from their respective spells as Everton players.
“We’re expecting another tough game,” he added. “I’ve watched them as well and we know they have committed players who will be up for it.
“I’ve known Danny [Cadamarteri] for a long time. I was a professional at Everton when he came in as a young player and I’ve more or less seen him every day during this trip, because we’re staying in the same hotel. I’ve had a good chat with him this week and it’s good to see him starting his own coaching career now.”