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Carabao Cup

Youth catch the eye in the Carabao Cup

26 September 2019

Superstars such as Cesc Fabregas, John Terry and Wayne Rooney have gone on to have distinguished careers in the game having featured in the League Cup as youngsters, so it is no surprise that the competition has gone from strength to strength in this area over the years.

Last season saw 382 English players under the age of 21 feature in the Carabao Cup, either in the starting XI or as part of the matchday squad, with 30 of those players scoring at least once in the competition.

Derby County’s Lee Buchanan did exactly that in Round One of this year’s competition, the defender’s tidy finish against Scunthorpe United on his senior debut making sure that the Rams progressed.

Similar to him is Birmingham City’s Jude Bellingham; the midfielder made his debut for the Blues in their Round One fixture against Portsmouth, thrusting him into the first-team spotlight. Like Buchanan, he has gone onto make his bow in the Sky Bet Championship, scoring against Stoke City and Charlton Athletic respectively.

It was a dream come true for Rochdale’s 16-year-old starlet Luke Matheson too, not only in drawing Manchester United in Round Three, but also popping up with a driven volley to make sure that the Dale forced a penalty shootout at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

Yet another is James Justin, who was at Luton Town from the age of seven, before swapping Championship football for the Premier League in the summer. He returned to Kenilworth Road for the first time since his departure in midweek.

The defender, on his full debut for Leicester City, managed to find the back of the net in their Round Three win over the Hatters, with the home support serenading the youngster with chants of ‘he one of our own’.

There were also wins for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City – with standout performances from their youngsters carrying them through to Round Four of the competition.

Gabriel Martinelli announced himself in style as he bagged a brace on his debut for the Gunners. Harvey Elliot, who came through the youth academy at Fulham became the youngest-ever player to start for Liverpool in their 2-0 win over MK Dons.

Seventeen-year-old defender Taylor Harwood-Bellis made his debut for the Citizens in their impressive display against Preston North End on Tuesday night; he was part of the defence that kept a clean sheet and was singled out for praise by Pep Guardiola in his post-match press conference.

The opportunity and experience that the Carabao Cup provides is unrivalled in the English game, providing young players with the platform to showcase their ability on the main stage. 

Watch this space, there could well be more of the same in Round Four!

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