Under-18s' pair Ben Greenwood and Brooklyn Genesini look back on a successful FA Youth Cup run in 2019/20, the Cherries reaching the fifth round before experiencing heartbreak at the hands of Millwall.
The duo, who each played every minute of the run, stationed at left and right-back in the side, spoke to afcb.co.uk about the special place the competition has for young players across the country, reviewed each fixture and then talked of the progress it allowed them to make beyond the youth team set-up.
THE JOY OF THE FA YOUTH CUP
While the Cherries won the Youth Alliance league this season and were well placed in the Merit League before the season’s premature end, the FA Youth Cup retains a unique place in the season, as the defending duo explained.
Greenwood began: “The Youth Cup is for every academy in England, even the smaller academies join in the early rounds, I experienced that with my local team last year.
“It mimics the FA Cup, which makes it very special. It feels like not just the youth teams but the whole club coming up against another club.”
Genesini continued: “Every game we play is important, but the Youth Cup is a different scenario. You’ve got a bit of a crowd there, it’s in the stadium, it’s a glimpse of first-team football and where we want to be in the future.
“The whole day is special. In the morning we go for a beach walk and it’s nice to be with the other players then later on we have dinner together, do a bit of analysis, it’s a bit different from an ordinary day and really interesting.”
Goals: AFC Bournemouth 4-3 Barnet
AFC Bournemouth 4-3 Barnet – Third round – 11th December 2019
A Christian Saydee brace and strikes from Harvey Bertrand and Luke Pardoe give the Cherries a commanding 4-0 half-time lead, though three Barnet goals in seven minutes just after half time switch the momentum and leave the Cherries needing to battle to the end to confirm their progress.
“Barnet made it very tough for us at the start of the game, “Greenwood explained. “But we grew into it and in the first half we probably could have scored more than four. Having the big lead at half time we felt we still had a lot more to give and had frustrations about not being our best.
“We came out for the second half and may have lost focus a bit, in the Youth Cup you can get punished, but I felt that after their third goal we showed a resilience when we could easily have kept on and lost, we fended them off and fought it out, finishing the game on top again.”
Genesini added: “They flipped the game around, they had all the momentum going forwards and were buzzing, we were in a bad place, they had two physical strikers who we should have dealt with better, sometimes we were too high, too square with our body shape which allowed them to get through.
“When it got to 4-3 we knew couldn’t concede again, if they’d got that fourth goal it would have put us in a sticky position. Coming through it, mentally and physically, that’s what we learned from and made us more ready for the next game.”
Greenwood concluded on the positives to be drawn from a hectic night at Vitality Stadium: “You have to experience those things in football because it gives you the feeling where you don’t want to throw a lead away like that again.
“When you go forwards in your career you want discipline and resilience, so a match like that will benefit you.”
FA Youth Cup: AFC Bournemouth 1-0 Cardiff City
AFC Bournemouth 1-0 Cardiff City – Fourth round – 14th January 2020
Without injured top-scorer Saydee, Khavarn Williams stepped in and scored the only goal of a tight contest before the break, the Cherries having to see out the final ten minutes a man down after Pardoe saw red for a tackle.
“We showed a lot of character in that game, taking advice from the game before,” recalled Genesini. “It was weird because while it was a tight game the Barnet game I felt was harder.
“It was almost quite an enjoyable game, even though it was only a 1-0 win, because it felt like there were good bits going on throughout the game. We took on all we were told before the game.”
Greenwood continued: “In the first half we dealt well with what we’d seen on videos before the game, we capitalised on that well with the goal.
“We stood up to the task really well, especially when we were down to ten men for the last ten minutes when they were throwing everything at us to get an equaliser. We fended that off well and as a defender a clean sheet is as good as a goal.”
FA Youth Cup: AFC Bournemouth 2-3 Millwall
AFC Bournemouth 2-3 Millwall – Fifth round – 4th February 2020
The visiting Lions scored at the start of each half to put themselves in a commanding position but it was the Cherries who roared back past the hour mark, scoring twice in quick succession through Euan Pollock and Williams to level the tie.
The hosts were intent on finding a winner, but Millwall instead scored against the run of play to book their place in the quarter-finals at the conclusion of a thrilling Vitality Stadium encounter.
“It hurt to go out like that,” began Greenwood, “But we went into the game as underdogs again and considering how early we conceded, then them scoring early in the second half as well, we did really well to get back into the game.
“To get the two goals back with a good amount of time left in the game, the adrenalin was then high, we were pushing for the win and had a lot of self-belief, but Millwall were clinical and scored a good counter-attack goal.
“Even after that we still had chances, but sometimes in football you just don’t get the rub of the green.”
Genesini agreed: “It was a shame, it was a good game, Millwall were a good side but I really thought the lads were going to bring it back and get that winner in the end, it was still a good performance so we can’t be too downhearted.
“That loss was tough but we played well, if we’d have lost like in the Barnet game then we’d not have been pleased but it was a good game from all the lads all the way to the 90th minute, but we just couldn’t get that final goal.”
A STAGE TO GAIN EXPOSURE
In a successful season for the pair, Greenwood received a first international call-up from the Ireland under-19s, while Genesini was brought into the first-team squad and was on the bench when the Cherries hosted Arsenal in the FA Cup fourth round at the end of January.
The two full-backs talked about the exposure they received, both in and out of the club, from positive performances in the FA Youth Cup.
Genesini said: “You’re out there to impress and make a name for yourself because at a young age it can be hard to be known well. You want to get your name out to the first-team gaffer and these were the games to get me closer to the first team, which I was glad about.
“Eddie Howe came up to me in training one day and had a word with me, saying congratulations for the Youth Cup run and that I’d done some really good bits and he was pleased with me.
“It wasn’t a huge amount of information, just a little well done, but it was uplifting, I was happy when he said that and it made me feel good.”
Greenwood added: “The Youth Cup is the best way to expose yourself, both with the international recognition I got, but also to people within the club here.
“We had first team staff at our games and after the Millwall game, even though we got knocked out, Eddie Howe came in and spoke with us which was really nice. It’s a great way to showcase yourself show what you’ve been working on in training and show what you can do.”