Nathan Moriah-Welsh knows more than most how the FA Youth Cup can create opportunities for young players.
The development squad midfielder recalls how a strong substitute appearance against Mansfield in the first round of the competition in December 2018 earned him the opportunity to train with the first team.
Moriah-Welsh recalls to afcb.co.uk: “That game probably kick-started my time at Bournemouth. I didn’t start the game – I’ve had banter with Alan Connell a few times about not being selected!”
In-front of 241 supporters, and crucially then-manager Eddie Howe, Moriah-Welsh helped the Cherries mount a comeback from a goal down to win 2-1, Christian Saydee netting the winner in the final seconds.
He said: “I had a really good game, impacted it well, and about two or three weeks later I trained with Eddie Howe’s first team for the first time at 16.
“At the time, I didn’t really realise how big the FA Youth Cup was. It’s a big opportunity for the boys now to impress the gaffer and his management staff because you never know who will be watching.”
At just 16, Moriah-Welsh became a key part of the under-18s in the 2018/19 season and helped the side reach the quarter-final for the first time in 50 years, earning a tie against Manchester City.
Felix Nmecha opened the scoring at Vitality Stadium for the Citizens after just nine minutes before Tom Halfrey equalised, the full-back alert inside the area as Moriah-Welsh's cross wasn't cleared.
Current Barcelona defender Eric Garcia put the visitors back ahead and goals from Fisayo Dele-Bashiru and Benjamin Knight wrapped up the win for the eventual finalists.
The Guyana international remembers the Cherries making a strong impression in the game, despite the defeat, earning praise from Howe and his coaching staff.
He remembers: “We stuck until the end to be fair and afterwards, Eddie Howe came in and said ‘you guys stuck to your plan and the way Bournemouth want to play football’ so he did give us a lot of gratitude.
“It was a tough game against one of the best academies in the world and it was such a big platform to play on.”
The squad that day included the likes of Jaidon Anthony, Zeno Ibsen Rossi, Christian Saydee and Brennan Camp, players who have made an impact on the first team this season, and Moriah-Welsh says the group continues to recall the historic run.
“We made history that year, so we always look back on it now. We had a strong group of players who have gone on to do good things, but we always look back on that run.
“For the under-18s now, they’ve just got to unite. [Last years defeat to Exeter] might be at the back of their minds but believe me, it means nothing at this point.
“You’ve got a point to prove against Exeter at their ground and I’ve got a lot of confidence in them, they’ve just got to believe in themselves.
“You always want to play in the biggest games and the Youth Cup, as a 16- to 18-year-old, is probably the biggest game you’ll get to play. Everyone wants to win it, or do well in it, because it does create opportunities.”
While Moriah-Welsh is yet to make his senior debut for the Cherries, the 19-year-old has been named on the bench on seven occasions this season, including the most recent fixtures against Derby County, Millwall and Coventry City and believes he is learning a lot.
He said: “It’s always good to be on the bench, you get to see first-hand how intense it is, how hard the Championship is.
“I’ve learned a lot from seeing the gaffer’s reactions to the games – it’s always been positive, he knows that you can’t really dwell on things in the past and you’ve just got to look to the future and making sure you put it right next time.
The under-18s take on Exeter City at St James Park in the third round of the FA Youth Cup on Thursday (7pm kick-off).