Millwall U18s ‘fantastic achievement’ of reaching FA Youth Cup semi-final – with Manchester City in final if they see off Leeds challenge

Millwall head coach Neil Harris has described the club’s U18s reaching the FA Youth Cup semi-final as “a fantastic achievement”.

The young Lions are in action against Leeds United this evening at Elland Road (7pm) looking to seal a final spot against Manchester City.

Millwall beat Chelsea in a penalty shootout in the previous round and have also knocked out Coventry, Grimsby and Barking.

“It is a great advert for the football club and just highlights the work that Scott Fitzgerald has done over a number of years now in our academy to develop the infrastructure but also the quality of player that comes through it,” Harris, who is the Lions’ all-time record goalscorer, told the South London Press.

“The U21s have had a good period of time and we’ve reaped the rewards of that bringing through players – the immediate thought being Danny McNamara, Billy Mitchell and Romain Esse.

“The opportunity the boys are getting tonight against Leeds in the semi-final of the Youth Cup is miraculous, to be honest.

“It is a fantastic achievement. It’s the number one competition in English football and British football – but probably world football as well – for the players to highlight and showcase their qualities.

“It’s great reward to be going to Elland Road in front of probably upwards of 10,000 people on the back of overcoming Chelsea, a top category 1 academy side. Hopefully the lads will go out and just express themselves and enjoy the occasion.

“The idea of U18s football is helping them develop but also preparing them for the next step, which will be professional contracts to play U21 football – then the next step is to play first-team football.

“If you think about the pathway of a scholar, developing through the academy and school at the same time, Scott has always tried to make sure that school life and family life is more important than football. Football goes alongside it, hand in hand, and together as parents and teachers we help to develop the lads who come through our academy.

“You go from the U16s to the U18s, then it goes to living the life of a young footballer but also developing your education, personality and characteristics. All we try and do is hope that as many of those young players realise their talent and continue the development to become professional football players for the football club.

“Once they go into the U21 environment it is not just about players we hope are going to be playing in our first team – we’re trying to give them the guidance to be professional footballers or play at the best level they possibly can for as long as possible.

“Even players who have come through our academy at U16, U18 or U21s that haven’t played first-team football for the football club, they have gone and had careers in League Two, National League or National League South for example.”

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