On Thursday evening, the Whitehawk FC Under 18 side will take on Tonbridge Angels U18’s in the Final of the Ryman Youth Cup, which will be played at Whyteleafe FC in Surrey with a 7.30PM kickoff.

The two sides have never met before, with Tonbridge playing in the East Division of the Ryman Youth League and with 1 game to play they are still in with a chance of winning their title, being only 1 point behind leaders Merstham, who also have 1 game to play. Despite not meeting them before, Hawks Manager Jude Macdonald told us “We have watched them this season and are aware of a couple of their players, but it’s always difficult to base your matches solely around the opposition in youth football. Kent has a reputation for producing good players and I don’t seeing being much different to playing the likes of Lewes, Worthing and Eastbourne Borough from our league. They will have great players and we have to be ready for that.”

The Hawks come into the Ryman Youth Cup Final on the back of winning the Sussex County FA U18 Cup in their previous match following a resounding 4-0 win over Newhaven FC, but when asked about his team selection for the match and whether the previous result have any impact in it, Macdonald responded “Myself, Sheep (Matt Elphick) and Harry (Shooman) have gone through it on numerous occasions and tossed a few ideas around. Obviously, you look to go for a strong line-up and one you think will win the game, but you could be picking any of our 18 in those instances.”

“We have based the team around certain things like, the specifics of the formation we are playing, leaders within the side, players that can counter their strengths etc. We have used various methods through the year such as, filming games and using PlayerTek data. The boys know that decisions for these games are made across a whole season, not just ‘who scored goals’ in the last match.”

When asked what he will expect from his players on Thursday evening, he said “I expect them to give it everything they have – hard work is always out minimum expectation. Both us and Tonbridge have had good seasons, but it would be unbelievable for our boys to win another trophy. In the long-run, whether they win it or not doesn’t actually matter. Whether we have set them on the right footballing path, playing the right way, working hard, and being able to take that into the men’s game is what matters.”

“Trophies top it off and they are fantastic for the boys to win, especially when they’ve worked hard all year. It will be a long journey home to sit with regrets.”

The Hawks’ journey to the Final began with a 4-0 win Away at Worthing with goals from Jordan Pryor, Billy Barker, James Waters and George Coltherd-Walls. Next up was a much tighter game against Molesey which ended in a 3-2 win with Pryor and Waters again getting on the scoresheet alongside Alex Beale. The Hawks were given a Home tie in the Quarter Finals against Three Bridges and ran out 4-2 winners, with Defender and Captain Luke Emberson grabbing himself 2 goals. A 2-1 win over Eastbourne Borough in the Semi-Final, with goals from James Waters and again Luke Emberson saw them through to the Final.

Angels’ journey to the Final began with a 6-1 win over Raynes Park Vale, followed by another win with a 5 goal margin, a 5-0 win over Ashford United. They travelled to Chipstead in the next round, winning 2-0. They met title rivals Merstham in the Quarter Finals in a game which ended in a 4-4 draw after extra time, however Tonbridge won 6-5 after penalties. There wasn’t such a close result in the Semi-Final however as they thumped Woking 5-0 away from home to seal a final place.