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Gloves off for Owen in FA Youth Cup duel

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Like his father and brother, Owen Bevan is hoping to help AFC Bournemouth land a knockout blow in the FA Youth Cup.

Bevan is set to skipper the Cherries when they meet EFL Youth Alliance rivals Exeter City in the third round at St James Park on Thursday (7pm kick-off).

The 18-year-old, who hails from a boxing family, will be out for revenge having featured when the Grecians floored the Cherries at the same stage of the competition 12 months ago.

Bevan’s brother Taylor is currently training under the watchful eye of dad Lester, the Southampton-based middleweight hoping to represent Wales at next year’s Commonwealth Games.

“I used to do a bit of boxing training here and there but always preferred football,” said younger brother Owen, when asked whether he ever contemplated donning the gloves.

“I come from quite a sporty family but I’m the only footballer. My brother has been boxing since he was young and was English Amateur champion in 2018.  My dad also used to box at amateur level. Hopefully, we can both do our family proud and have good careers in our respective sports.”

Bevan, who has been on the Cherries’ books since he was nine, has made eye-catching progress since being converted from a central midfielder to a central defender four years ago.

The Wales under-19 international will be hoping to lead from the front as Alan Connell’s team bid to embark on another memorable campaign in the FA Youth Cup.

Under Connell, the under-18s reached the quarter-finals for only the second time in the club’s history in 2018/19, bowing out to eventual runners-up Manchester City.

And the previous season, they exited in the fourth round to a Tottenham team managed by current Cherries head coach Scott Parker and assistant Matt Wells.

But the prospect of repeating any past glories will only be possible if Connell’s young guns can overcome Exeter, something they failed to do last season.

“It was a weird game because the stadium was empty as it was during lockdown,” said Winchester-born Bevan, who will trigger his first professional contract following the end of his scholarship.

“Unfortunately, we lost 3-1 but I think we can take a lot from the game going into Thursday. We certainly want to make up for it.

“We played Aston Villa a couple of weeks ago and beat them 2-1. That was really good preparation for us and we are fully prepared for the game.

“Although we had a bit of a slow start to the season, we have found some form recently and have picked up a lot of points and are top of the league.

“We’ve got a strong squad with players coming back from injury. We’re doing well in the league and want to continue the momentum in the FA Youth Cup.

“Hopefully, we can have a good run this season and make a name for ourselves as a successful youth team. But our main focus is trying to win this game so that’s all we’re thinking about at the moment.”

Bevan received a double helping of good news on the first day of pre-season, being appointed youth team captain and being promoted to train with Scott Parker’s first-team squad.

“I was honoured to be asked to be captain,” he said. “When you look at where some of the past captains are now, you want to follow in their footsteps.

“Players like Brennan Camp and Nathan Moriah-Welsh train regularly with the first team and Sam Sherring is on loan to Accrington Stanley and playing in League One.

“Having the captaincy has really helped me improve my communication and leadership skills.

“Being asked to train with the first team was quite unexpected. I got told on the first day of pre-season but wasn’t sure for how long.

“I felt I did quite well and, a couple of days before they went to Spain, I was told I would be going with them. I was delighted and it was an amazing experience.

“I ended up staying with them for nine weeks and trained alongside players like Lloyd Kelly, Chris Mepham, Steve Cook and Gary Cahill, people you can’t fail to learn from. I just want to build on it, work hard and see where it takes me.”

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