Paul Tait hopes his Under-18s can feed off the feel-good factor around five young players making their Everton debuts against Apollon Limassol on Thursday night when they kick off their FA Youth Cup campaign on Friday.
Anthony Gordon – just 16 – and 17-year-old Alex Denny made late cameos in the 3-0 victory, with Under-23s forward Nathan Broadhead also introduced in the second half, with Harry Charsley and Fraser Hornby starting the game. Winger Stephen Duke-McKenna and defender Michael Collins were also unused substitutes on the night.
Duke-McKenna, Collins, Gordon and Denny now face Ipswich Town in the FA Youth Cup on Friday night but while this will be a test for the young quartet so soon after being involved with the first team, Tait insists it will provide a huge boost to his young charges ahead of their tie at Goodison Park.
“They are going to get off the plane at midday and the only one who won’t be with us tonight is Fraser because of how much game time he had,” he told evertontv. “But the rest of them with play tonight.
“For the rest of our squad, it is great motivation for them. They’ve seen a couple of their teammates make their debuts so they should be thinking ‘why not me?’ We sat them down at the start of the season and I don’t think they realised just how close they are to the first team – be that here or out on loan – and while it has come round sooner than we have expected for some of them, it brings it home that bit more.
“Now we have to rein them in a little bit and channel that enthusiasm and good feeling, and make sure we use it in the right way for us tonight.”
Tait also revealed that those within the Academy coaching set-up were glued to their televisions for a match that concluded Everton’s group stage campaign, while attempts were made to find out just who might feature prior to kick-off.
And soon after the final whistle, Tait was back on the phone to congratulate his players on their landmark occasion.
“It was a really good evening watching the game,” he added. “The first we knew about it was Monday in training. We got a shout off the other side of the building that we needed to pull a few of the lads out of training. I had a little text conversation with Duncan [Ferguson] trying to find out who was playing!
“It is a big ask for these young lads to go and play but they have shown over the years that they are capable of it if you give them the opportunity. And they won’t left you down as we saw on Thursday night.
“I thought Fraser did really well. He led the line, won headers and kept hold of the ball – basically everything he has been doing for the Under-18s. The only thing missing was a goal. He had a good chance and I spoke to him on Thursday night and told him he should have scored! But he was on cloud nine as you can expect.
“I also spoke to Alex and Anthony too and they were both just over the moon. Anthony is having a great season with us and suddenly he is making his first team debut. It’s what dreams are made of. I’m made up for Alex as well because he has been here a long, long time and he has applied himself excellently. It’s nice for them to get a little taste.
“I have to mention Morgan Feeney, who did really well at centre back. He looked like he had been playing there for years. And Harry is normally a midfield player or a number 10 - he’s known for goalscoring and was one of my top scorers when I had him in the -18s – but he has slotted in at left-back and did a great job.
“But I have to give credit to all the lads. They did really well and it was great to see.”
Friday's game kicks off at 7pm, with entry £3 for adults and £1 for juniors. Official Members and Season Ticket holders will also be able to watch a live stream of the game for free. Click here to find out more.