Youth team boss Tony Philliskirk is eyeing his third piece of silverware in three years as his side face Blackpool in the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup final tonight.
Latics defeated the Seasiders in 2014 courtesy of a penalty shootout where Joel Coleman was the hero, whilst last year, Athletic beat MK Dons 4-0 in the Youth Alliance Cup final.
This is the third year running the young Latics have found themselves in a final but Philliskirk is wary of the threat Blackpool pose.
He said: “They are a very good team and it’s going to be a tough game. We have had them analysed, watched DVD’s and they have scored a lot of goals this season.
"At the same time, they have let a few in so it’s going to be a tough game but hopefully we will go into it nice and refreshed. At the end of the day I’m just really pleased for the lads.
“We have had an inconsistent season but I have never known a season where we have had so many injuries, but I’m not making excuses.
“Before Christmas we were even playing schoolboys in the squad who haven’t even gained apprenticeships which tells you where we were.
“So many players were injured, Rahul Parmer, Callum Scullion and James Sloane were all ruled out before the start of the season so we were down to 13 outfield players.
“I can’t be critical of the players and the positive I take from it is that so many schoolboys have played in the youth team so far this season.
“We’ve had 15 year old lads competing with 18 year olds, which has been a big ask but they have performed admirably.
“The boys have somehow managed to get themselves to another cup final looking to get some silverware so a lot of credit goes to them.
"We know it’s going to be tough but on our day, we can beat anybody. Hopefully the boys can round off what has been a difficult season for everyone and come away with some silverware.
"They are used to playing out here so hopefully they give a good account of themselves. Hopefully if we get the win tonight then it keeps the feel good factor going around the club, what with the first team securing its Sky Bet League One status at the weekend.”
Tonight’s cup final is a big one for the second year scholars in particular with manager John Sheridan and assistant boss Peter Shirtliff in attendance.
“It’s a big week for the second year players as they have the cup final and then we are having meetings with the senior staff to discuss the possibility of who goes forward to get professional contracts,” Philliskirk commented.
“We rested all the second year scholars on Saturday as I would not have forgiven myself if they would have picked up a knock and weren’t able to play in the cup final.
“The manager and Peter Shirtliff will be in attendance at the game so it gives the lads a chance to show them what they can do so it’s a big night for the lads.”
The game takes place at SportsDirect.com Park this evening (Tuesday, April 26).
The game kicks off at 7pm and admission prices are as follows:
Come down and support the future of our football club!