Richards: Togetherness key to cup progress
Gary Richards believes the togetherness within the Swansea City Under-23s squad has been instrumental in their run to this season’s Premier League Cup quarter-finals.
For a third consecutive year, the Swans are appearing in the competition’s last eight, where they face Nottingham Forest at the Impact Arena at 3pm this afternoon.
The development side topped Group E with 11 points from six matches, before seeing off reigning champions Aston Villa 2-0 in the last 16 and what was a repeat of the 2018 final.
Along with Cameron Toshack, Richards has used the competition to rotate the squad on a regular basis – handing opportunities to several under-18s players along the way including Tivonge Rushesha, Daniel Williams and Mason Jones-Thomas.
And the under-23s coach insists that every player has made a significant contribution towards the Swans’ progress to the last eight.
“It has been a real squad effort to get what to where we are,” the under-23s coach said.
“Pretty much every player in the squad that hasn’t been injured has played a part in getting us to where we are now.
“The togetherness within the group has got us through the tournament.
“We’re delighted with our progress in the Premier League Cup. It has been a really good competition for us this season.
“As an Academy, you look at the competitions for different reasons. From a development perspective, this is very different from the league. Once you get out of the group, they are one-off games and it’s something the players have coped with very well.
“Today will provide another good challenge but it’s a good opportunity for the players.”
Standing in the Swans’ way of another semi-final appearance is Professional Development League side Forest.
Despite two divisions separating the teams, the hosts will certainly be no pushover. Along with current Premier League 2 leaders Everton, they are one of only two sides to have remained unbeaten throughout this season’s competition.
And Richards knows his players must be at the peak of their powers at the Impact Arena – home of non-league Alfreton Town.
“We understand the importance of the game and will make sure we prepare well,” he added.
“Everybody’s striving to play in the first team but, first, they need to experience what it’s like to be playing against different types of sides at this level.
“The Premier League 2 fixtures have been important for the players’ development, but no less than the games we play outside the category one programme.
“It’s about making sure that our performance levels are where they need to be this afternoon and that every player is the best they can be.”
You can watch the young Swans in Premier League Cup quarter-final action LIVE on swanseacity.com from 3pm this afternoon.