John Davey HERO

Sussex John Davey Challenge Cup Final (Under-16s) Preview

Words by A. Ayush Chatterjee
Hastings United vs. Withdean Youth

The final of the Sussex John Davey Challenge Cup (Under-16s) is due to take place on Sunday 30 April 2023 between Hastings United and Withdean Youth.

Hastings United vs. Withdean Youth
Sussex John Davey Challenge Cup Final (Under-16s)
Date: Sunday 30 April 2023
Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Sussex County FA, Culver Road, Lancing, BN15 9AX

We spoke to the managers of both sides to get their views ahead of the final.

First up was Hastings United manager Emlyn McCann who took charge at the club nine months ago, with extensive experience of coaching at the Under-18s and Under-23s level. McCann is thrilled to be part of this project. He said:

"When I arrived at Hastings United, I just fitted in right away and had the support and backing of all the people above, and I see the club going in the right direction not only for the adult first team but also for the youth players as well. The club is in safe hands moving forward and I am quite happy to be a coach here."

McCann started coaching 17 years ago after he started training his nieces before realising this was a passion he wanted to follow further, with aspirations of making it to the big leagues in the future. He said:

"I went into football coaching as a side job to keep myself busy and stay active and quickly realised that It was a big passion of mine. 

“In the last four years, I have pushed on as I really want to pursue this as a full-time career. Now I have a UEFA B and full youth award, goalkeeper Level 2 badge as well. I am hoping I can keep building on this and get into the professional game with a full-time job with a decent club as a coach."

This is a momentous occasion for McCann and his young Hastings side, who will be playing in their first County Cup Final. He said:

"I can see the smiles on the players' faces when they talk about it. The pride is showing in the parents and the club. It just shows how far the team has come in a short period of time, technically and tactically and I am extremely proud of them for this." 

Hastings have had an exceptional cup run thus far and McCann believes they are deserved finalists. He said:

"We've had really good performances from the boys. They really seem to step it up in the cup competitions. We've had a few tough tests along the way. We beat last year's winners Burgess Hill on the way to the final. 

“To beat them was a great result that gave a lot of confidence to the lads. Overall, it has been a good journey and these boys absolutely deserve to be in the final now."

McCann is also very proud of all the progress he has seen the team make under his watch. He said:

"We don't see any one game or win as a highlight for us but the entire season as a whole. 

“We have displayed excellent technical ability across the whole team and an amazing sense of understanding both in and out of possession. We've come forwards leaps and bounds as a unit and I have seen so much progression in a short period of time.”

Hastings are banking on their fans to support them in full voice for the final. McCann said:

"We will try our best to win for the players, the parents and all the supporters we have. As long as the players try their best and put in 100% effort, we can be proud of reaching the final. 

“Now, all we have to do is take one more step and win it. Either way, we can leave there proud with our heads held high!"

In the opposite dugout, we spoke to John Sutton, the manager of Withdean Youth, a side gearing up for its first final at this level in quite some time.

Sutton, 50, has been with Withdean for a long time, with this being his second stint with the side that has graduated to the under-16 level. He said:

"My son played for the team so when it first started at the Under-8s level years ago, I and another parent took the job on to coach and manage the team and after two seasons, my younger son started playing at the Under-10s level and I took over his team, also at Withdean. 

“I coached that side for four years and I returned to the Under-16s side at the start of this season. I was a very average footballer. But I was a keen parent who just wanted to get involved for my kids and all his teammates."

Withdean have played in a County Cup Final and a couple of League Cup Finals in the past, but this is their first one with Sutton at the helm of the side and he could not be any prouder.

"More than half the team has now been together since the Under-8 level. When this team was at the Under-13 level, we had quite a few players leave for different clubs and professional academies. We had to get a lot of new players in, and the Under-14 season was a struggle in Division 1 in the year of the lockdown.

“To go from Division 2 to Division 1 and be in a County Cup Final and fight for a trophy is a massive achievement, and we are really proud of them for all their hard work. I have to thank my co-coach Martin Paling for his efforts in helping rebuild the team and getting them to this level."

Sutton is particularly proud of his side's impressive cup run thus far and picked their semi-final win as the highlight of the season. He said:

"The highlight of the cup run was the semi-final, which was probably our best game of the season. We won 5-0 against Oakwood and the lads really rose to the occasion to give us a brilliant result that day.”

Sutton heaped praise on the parents of the players for their unwavering support throughout. He said:

"I'd really like to thank all the parents for their dedication and their support throughout everything. The players and I really appreciate their effort. I hope we can give them a good game in the final and make them proud."

Ahead of Withdean's big day, Sutton had a straightforward message for his players who will take to the field in Lancing. He said:

"We've come a long way over the last few seasons and at times it has been a struggle and I don't think then they would have thought that they would be in a County Cup Final. 

“It is a great achievement to get to this point and they can be really proud of that. I think they are good enough to win the game if they play the way they normally do, and follow what they have done all season. 

“These lads can thrive under pressure and rise to the occasion; I know they have that in them. I want them to use all the nervous energy they will be experiencing as inspiration to get them over the line and bring the cup home."

Entry prices are as follows (Cash and Card accepted):

£5.00 Adult (17+)
£3.00 Concession (66+ and students with valid student ID card)
£1.00 Child (16 and under)
£1.50 Official Match Day Programme

For further details about the Sussex John Davey Challenge Cup (Under-16s) please contact:

T: 01903 753547

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