'I Want To Excite Fans' – Okoronkwo Previews Youth Cup Showdown

Dynamic forward Francis Okoronkwo says he will strive to “get on the ball and excite the fans” when Everton tackle Sheffield United in an FA Youth Cup fourth-round tie at Goodison Park on Friday night (7pm GMT).

The clash is being streamed live on our official YouTube channel, with coverage beginning at 6.45pm.

Tickets for the game are available at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions, with seats in the Upper Bullens Road stand*. Payment is on the gate.

Okoronkwo, 17, joined Everton from Sunderland in September and revealed how life with the Blues has been “a breath of fresh air”, paying tribute to boss Paul Tait’s management and the welcoming nature of the Under-18s squad.

The forward, who can operate on either wing or as a central attacker, will head into Friday’s contest buoyed by goals in the Toffees’ past two league matches against Stoke City and Manchester United.

He also scored in Everton’s 3-2 third-round Youth Cup win over Fulham at Goodison and explained how performing that stage for the first time was an experience he will never forget.

Okoronkwo told “It was just a rush of emotions to play at Goodison Park – to play in the stadium where I hope to play in the First Team one day.

“I’m feeling good going into Friday’s match and I think the most important thing in football is to be confident.

“I like to excite. I want to get on the ball and make people smile. I enjoy running with the ball, trying to find my teammates in the best positions and trying to score and assist.

“I’m loving it at Everton so far. All the players want to win, we’re all striving for the same goal. The coaches are helping us. I just love being around this club.”

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Okoronkwo expects Everton, who sit sixth in the U18 Premier League (North) table, to face tough physical test against Sheffield United.

The Blades compete in the tier below the Toffees and are unbeaten in their league so far this season, having won three and drawn sixth of their nine matches.

They are currently placed fourth in the northern section of the U18 Development League.

“Watching Sheffield, they’re a very aggressive team,” Okoronkwo added.

“They want to get in your face and, first, we need to match that.

“Once we match their intensity, we can play football and, with the quality in our team, I’m confident we can win the game.”

Francis Okoronkwo
I like to excite. I want to get on the ball and make people smile.

Blyth-born Okoronkwo revealed how his transition to his new environment at Everton has been aided by boss Tait – a fellow Geordie who the teenager describes as a “very good coach who knows how to get the best out of me”.

“The manager is very good with me,” he added. “He’s very patient. He knows when to give you a talking to and when to put his arm around you.

“It’s good being from the same place, too, we understand each other a bit more!”

Assistant manager Leighton Baines also earns glowing praise from the teenager.

“Leighton’s just incredible to work with,” Okoronkwo added. "He was playing still and at a high level not long ago and everything he says, you take it as gospel!”

Watch Everton Under-18s v Sheffield United Under-18s live on YouTube from 6.45pm on Friday!

Tickets are available at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions, with seats in the Upper Bullens Road stand*. Payment is on the gate.

Anyone with accessibility requests will be accommodated in the Paddock.