GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Under-18’s enthusiastic management team say they “can’t wait” for the challenges that lie in store for them and their boys in this weekend’s FA County Youth Cup quarter-final test.

Cirencester Town’s Corinium Stadium plays host this Saturday to a mouthwatering match involving Gloucestershire and Durham (1.30pm) and co-boss Calum Wands, who runs the talented local team in tandem with Adam Coyle, says the big day can’t come quickly enough with so much at stake.

The home side, having been awarded a first-round bye, went on to overcome Amateur Football Alliance 2-0 and Cornwall FA 5-3, after a thrilling extra-time period, in rounds two and three, both on familiar 3G territory at the Gloucestershire FA headquarters in Almondsbury.

And while they will have to adapt to new surroundings every bit as much as Durham will at the Corinium Stadium on Saturday, the fact the last-eight tie will be played out on a similar artificial surface – a brand-new one at that – can only help the Glos boys’ cause in the bid to keep the cup dream alive.

Not that Coyle and Wands are taking anything for granted as the prestigious national competition truly begins to warm up, although the latter stressed: “We’re all really excited; the boys are buzzing and being a former Gloucestershire rep player as I am it means a lot to me on a personal level.

“I was captain and a central midfielder playing for Hartpury as my regular team at the time when we (Gloucestershire) lost 2-1 against Leicestershire & Rutland FA at the third round point a few years ago, so it’s nice to have gone one better than that.

“It had been thought that Gloucestershire had never reached a final but after a bit of research it appears we were beaten by Durham at that stage many years ago.

“Regardless of all that we want to keep progressing while very aware that Durham, according to the Cornwall manager we spoke to after our third round win over them, are a very physical side who like to put it about a bit.

“They also tend to have three or four game-changing threats in their line-up but I would say that we have six or seven who can do likewise.”

Shea in to enhance attacking options as Glos FA U18s eye County Youth Cup joy

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Under-18 co-boss Calum Wands is rubbing his hands at the prospects for a string of his fledgling performers – however they fare in this Saturday’s FA County Youth Cup last-eight clash.

The representative hopefuls, overseen also by Adam Coyle, entertain Durham FA at Cirencester Town’s Corinium Stadium 3G facility at 1.30pm with a prized place in the semi-finals up for grabs.

The squad is essentially the same as that which put paid so dramatically to Cornwall FA at Oaklands Park, 5-3, after extra-time in the third round, although goalkeeper Charlie Dymond, Nathan Hewitt, Jardel Hartley-Keeling and Shea Bennington-Mannings are all included this time and readying themselves for potential appearances.

Of the latter’s attributes, Wands explained: “Shea played for our under-16s when Adam and I were in charge.

“He’s a big striker, very quick and skilful with it and he’s the type who can run in behind defences but also has the confidence to take players on.

“Our regular striker is George Neil who, despite being more of a hold-up player, has scored in every round whereas Shea, who plays for Bath City but was born in Gloucestershire, is more direct and offers that pace.

“We’ve got the option of pairing them upfront together or having one starting on the bench. It’s a nice conundrum as George, who like a lot of our lads plays for Filton College, is a powerful targetman by contrast who always gives defenders an uncomfortable ride.”

Wands, in casting an eye over other key personnel in what he considers to be a gifted Gloucestershire group throughout, said: “We have six or seven potential game changers in our squad including Luke Spokes (central midfielder), Daniel McBeam (attacking midfielder), Andre Freckleton (left-winger) and Elliott Gardiner (right-winger).

“There’s George and Shea, who we’ve already spoken about, and then there’s Marcus Kelly, a tall and powerful midfielder, very athletic, who can perform the holding role as well as he can be an attacking threat.

“He showed that against Cornwall in the last round when he sprinted forward to finish off a quick counter attack for our third goal.

“It’s great and rewarding for Adam and me that some five or six of the under-16s we coached at that level have come through to the 18s together, among them our captain and left-back Harvey Paul, another from Filton College, who has come on leaps and bounds and been a very good vocal leader.

“And Dan McBeam won praise from the Cornwall manager in the last round by describing him as a ‘box of tricks’.”

Wands, who is also head coach of Hartpury University Women and joint coach alongside Steve Lilley with the GFA Women representative side, added: “Durham are clearly a good team and aren’t going to be easy opponents.

“But with the players Adam and I have at our disposal we’re confident we can pull off the result we’re looking for.

“Yes, the Cirencester Town surroundings may be unfamiliar to most of our boys but I used to play for Ciren at under-14/15 level and know the place well.

“Adam lives nearby so it won’t be completely alien to us, just as the brand-new 3G pitch there the lads will be performing on will have a familiar feel to it given our usual home is at Oaklands Park.

“Now we’ve come this far there’s definitely a special vibe about the occasion and as a former Gloucestershire player I have a good feel about what might be going through the players’ heads, providing a mix of excitement and a few butterflies no doubt.”

Gloucestershire U-18 squad: Mason Hawkins, Charlie Dymond, Sam Larkins, Tom Anthony, Sam Lacey, Nathan Hewitt, Noah Smerdon, Harvey Paul, Elliott Gardiner, Marcus Kelly, Luke Spokes, Andre Freckleton, Jardel Hartley-Keeling, Shea Bennington-Mannings, George Neil, Daniel McBeam.