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Under-21s

Young guns on Premier League Cup duty

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Coach Shaun Cooper is keen for AFC Bournemouth’s young guns to add another string to their footballing bows when they do battle in the Premier League Cup.

The Cherries are expected to include a number of the club’s successful under-18s for their last-16 showdown against Nottingham Forest tomorrow – with free entry to the City Ground for supporters (1pm).

Several members of Alan Connell’s squad have been elevated to the under-21s following their heroics in the FA Youth Cup and to help fill the void created by a host of players being on loan.

The Cherries booked their place in the knockout stage for a second season in succession after finishing as runners-up in Group C, while Forest were the unbeaten winners of Group D.

Cooper’s youthful group heads to the City Ground on the back of bowing out of the Hampshire Senior Cup at the hands of Wessex Premier leaders Sholing.

The clash will see the Cherries trade locking horns with a club which lifted the FA Vase in 2014 to one which was crowned European Cup winners in 1979 and 1980.   

Cooper told afcb.co.uk: “It’s another example of the good blend of fixtures we’ve had this season.

“One week, it might be a Hampshire Senior Cup game and, the next, we are playing the likes of Liverpool, West Brom and Nottingham Forest.

“It’s good for the lads to go from one type of game to another because, in some ways, that reflects what it will be like in a first-team environment.

“The City Ground is a great stadium to play in and anytime the lads get a chance to play in a stadium, it is going to be a fantastic experience for them. I know they are looking forward to it.

“It’s a one-off game and all on the day. Again, it reflects what they are going to be faced with if they go on to have careers in the game so it’s another great opportunity to learn.”

Forest eased into the last 16 after recording doubles over Leicester and Exeter, coupled with beating and drawing with Norwich in their six group games.

Currently seventh in Group A of the Professional Development League, Forest drew 2-2 with Colchester on Monday and their team included vastly-experienced striker Jamie Ward, Scotland international Liam Bridcutt and Sam Byram, who is on loan from West Ham.

“We know they are a good team and it will be a tough challenge for us,” said Cooper. “It will be a different challenge to Sholing on Monday but equally as tough for different reasons.”

Meanwhile, Cooper revealed the Cherries had been forced to scour Nottingham for a hotel with enough rooms on the same floor to accommodate the club’s young travelling party.

“Some of them are so young that they have to be on the same floor as the staff – it was a bit of a tricky one but we got there in the end!” added Cooper.

“A lot of them will never have experienced an overnight stay so it will be another good experience for them.

“It’s good for the camaraderie and good for the younger lads to be in and around some of the older boys. A trip away gives them a chance to come out of their shell and mix with the older players.”

Premier League Cup last 16: Burnley v Leicester City, Derby County v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton v Sunderland, Leeds United v Fulham, Nottingham Forest v AFC Bournemouth, Reading v Newcastle United, Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers, Swansea City v Aston Villa.

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