DERBY County will look to build on their impressive performances in the FA Youth Cup in the past two years when the competition begins again tonight.
Two seasons ago, the Rams’ Under-18 team beat Arsenal away before they lost narrowly to Manchester United.
Last season, Derby progressed to the quarter-finals of the competition thanks to victories over Gateshead, Ipswich Town and Manchester City before they pushed Chelsea all the way, only to lose 2-1.
The Youth Cup adventure starts again tonight with a third-round tie against Wigan Athletic at the iPro Stadium, kick- off 7pm.
Academy manager Darren Wassall said: “In the last two seasons we have had some unbelievable ties and some really good memories. Hopefully we can build on that.
“We had a great run last season and it would be fantastic to do something similar this time around.
“But we have told the players it is great they have had those experiences but they will mean nothing unless they treat Wigan with the respect they deserve.”
Mason Bennett is set to line up for Derby against Wigan.
The 17-year-old striker is part of the first-team squad and has made one start and eight appearances as a substitute in the Championship this season.
“Mason has gained invaluable experience with the first team this year,” said Wassall.
“He is in the squad week in, week out and it is great for our lads that he will be able to bring that experience into the dressing room tonight.
“We’ve also got the likes of Max Lowe, Kwame Thomas, Farrend Rawson and Jamie Hanson – so we have got five or six second years who fortunately have had experience of the FA Youth Cup and of playing at Pride Park, now the iPro Stadium.”
A crowd of 1,200 watched Derby beat Manchester City last season and more than 4,000 turned out for the tie against Chelsea.
“Once we got the result against Manchester City, expectation rose and the Friday night game against Chelsea was a great experience for everybody,” said Wassall.
“The supporters really got behind the lads and hopefully they will continue to.”
“They realise that what we are trying to do here, produce young players, is the right thing to do and it is exciting when they see a few success stories in the first team.”
Admission tonight is £3 for adults and £1 for under 18s. Season ticket holders will be able to watch the game free.