Edu Rubio was delighted to see his MK Dons Under-18s side stick to their style of play during their Second round FA Youth Cup win over the Bees.
Goals from Tommy Hope and a Dylan Asonganyi brace secured a Third Round tie against Cardiff City for Rubio’s side.
The boys from MK1 had to come from behind, however, as Barnet’s early penalty gave them an uphill task.
“We had a very good performance, I thought the opening 20 minutes was difficult for us but the boys managed to compose themselves and find a way back into the game shortly after conceding which was key.
“I felt in the second-half we were the better team. We managed to play the MK Dons way, get back into our DNA and play the way we like to play.”
It wasn’t an ideal evening for the Under-18s however, as the closure of the M1 meant to coach arrived just 45 minutes prior to kick-off. Despite the delay, Rubio was pleased with the professionalism on display from his young side.
“We got to the game at 7:15pm for an 8pm kickoff and we were given just five extra minutes to prepare for the game. Obviously, this wasn’t enough time to get ready for the game in our usual fashion but the boys adapted to the situation and were very flexible.
“These are the values we encourage the boys to lean because that’s life – these are circumstances they have to deal with. Nothing is going to go according to plan and it’s good to have that character just get on with their job.”
He added: “It’s important that these young players experience this for the first time and I’m proud that they managed to compose themselves and managed themselves in the correct way. It’s important for us as a club to create good people as well as good players and that’s a trait of someone who is composed in their life – because every day is different.”
It wasn’t just the win that Rubio was pleased with, up against a physical, strong, quick Barnet side – the U18s boss was delighted to see his side keep up their high-performance levels.
“It’s important that we stick to our DNA, of course, we like winning and winning is a part of development but it’s equally important that we improve as players.
“It’s important we create players for the first team, that is our number one target as an academy. To make sure we give chances to local player and give chances to players who have come all the way through the ranks. For that to happen we need to be very good in terms of sticking to our DNA as an academy.
“That’s also us as coaches too, we need to adapt to different players and understand how they fit into our DNA and help develop them as a player. There is a good balance of this within our academy and we are creating players for the first team with a clear identity and a clear DNA but at the same time we respect who they are as players.”
The FA Youth Cup provides young players with the chance to play within stadiums. On Tuesday night, the boys from MK1 took to unfamiliar surroundings at The Hive with great maturity.
“In football, you are going to play away from home so it’s important these lads adapt to new grounds, the journey and coming up against away fans. These are all things a professional player will have to deal with and it’s important that we mix things up and the players are adaptable and flexible enough to understand everything will be okay as long as we stick together.
“I always tell the boys, it’s not about where you play or who you play against - it’s about understanding who we are as a club. I think self-awareness as an individual and a team is important. We are very honest about who we are – we remain together so everyone can remain happy.”
The win secured a Third Round tie against Sky Bet Championship side Cardiff City – one Rubio is hopeful the MK Dons fans will come watch.
“We would love to get loads of people here to support the boys because our fans know some of these lads could be playing for the first-team somewhere down the line.
“It would be good for the fans to see the future first-team players and it’s good for the players to see their fans because the connection between to two is very important for the success of the club and the players.
“I would encourage everyone to come here and back the boys against Cardiff.
“We are a family club and we are proud to be a family club. We are a bit random and we are a bit different but we are proud to be different and random.”
Finally, Rubio thanks the manager Robbie Neilson, Pete and Bobby Winkelman, Andy Cullen, John Cove and the rest of the board for their continued support.
“We are very blessed because we know who we are and we know our identity. It’s refreshing to see we have a chairman and a board who travel to see the Under-18s play. The manager is very good with the players too, we have a chat every morning about who will play for the 23s, who will play for the 18s and if anyone will train with the first-team.
“There is a connection between the board, the academy and the first-team and that’s very important. We are a family, we are united and we are together.”