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Mark Bonner on Tottenham

20 September 2021

Mark Bonner sat down with local media ahead of The U's clash with Tottenham Hotspur Under 21's in the Papa John's Trophy...

The U's currently sit top of Group H (Southern) after a brace from Sam Smith as well as goals from Harvey Knibbs and Kai Yearn earned United all three points over ten-man Oxford United in their opening group game.

On the win over Portsmouth:

“It will certainly be a reference point for us to go back to - you get lots of them during the season where you can go back and look into a game that maybe you were not expecting so much from, going into big atmospheres away from home as well as responding from a difficult day.

“I think there is a confidence around the team at the moment, how confident I guess will be seen over the few weeks - but we played really well and deserved the result in the end.”

On the Papa John’s Trophy:

“I love it! I have said this before, but it was a really good competition for us last year and we were disappointed to go out against Oxford. We want to qualify and go as far as we can in it because number one, financially, it is great for clubs and number two, it can give a real good opportunity for using your whole squad.

“It is a good opportunity to play in knockout football which can create good pressure. I enjoy all cup competitions. We know the league is our main priority but that does not mean we could not make the most of every competition.”

On Tottenham Under 21’s:

 “We are expecting a good side actually, I think you can add five or six missing internationals [from Tottenham U21’s last Papa John’s Trophy game], so we expect their team to change a little bit. It is hard to know so much about exactly what is going to show up, your knowledge of the opposition is less as we have got less games and less footage to go off to try and draw those comparisons.

“You have to make the night a little bit more about yourself sometimes, but it is a good opportunity for us to keep playing, and a positive result would all but secure our qualification which is obviously our aim for the night. We are looking forward to seeing a few other boys play that have not played so much recently.

“We are hoping for Jubril [Okedina] and Shilow [Tracey] to give us an insight once we receive the team sheet tomorrow, but obviously we have done our work as normal but the fact that those two will know a number of players quite well may help us and give us a bit more of an idea.

“We feel like we have got a basic knowledge of what to expect from Tottenham and I think like any time we play these teams, we are talking about talented young players that are trying to make that jump into senior football, so we know what to expect, an athletic and technical team that will play with good tempo.”

On facing off against Tottenham Under 21’s manager, Wayne Burnett:

“I am looking forward to seeing Wayne [Burnett], we have crossed paths a number of times, whether that is when he was at Dagenham or even with Tottenham, where we played them a couple of times in pre-season. I know Ryan Mason fairly well as well as we are doing our Pro Licence together at the moment, he is involved with the academy as well.

“Tottenham's reputation and development within their academy has been exceptional and they have certainly got something in place that I think will serve them really well in the future. We have got a good link with them, so we are looking forward to seeing them. We are expecting a good crowd so hopefully it will be a good night.”

Team news:

“Liam Bennett and Mamadou Jobe are both unavailable as they have left on short-term youth loans. The loans give us the flexibility to get them back between now and the next window, but it does not allow the permission to play in this competition. If they went out on a longer-term loan, rather than a youth loan, they could have played against Tottenham. The rules are a bit mad to be honest!

“Everyone else is available to play.

“It will be good for Jack Lankester to really build up and try and get through the full force of the game. It is important that we have that flexibility ahead of a busy week ahead and also just to have that depth in certain positions.

“Dimi [Mitov] will not be in the squad tomorrow night after taking a whack on his shin towards the end of Saturday’s game, which is a bit sore. It will be a nice opportunity for Will [Mannion] and Kai [McKenzie-Lyle] to battle it out once more.

“Leon Davies will be in the squad tomorrow.”

On Ben Worman potentially coming in:

“Ben [Worman] is capable of playing as an advanced midfield player, on the left side, the right side, as a winger or a narrow midfield player. He has also played in central midfield at times in the youth so he has got real good variety to where he can play.

“We know what Ben [Worman] can do, but it is never a test to say stake your claim for the shirt as we have got a squad of 18 to 20 players that are all capable playing in our team. We do not want to have that fear factor and added pressure put on them saying they “have to” do well in a certain game, the players want to do well and we expect them to do well because they are good players.

“One of the things we have always said is whatever team we put on the pitch trying to look like us as much as we can, and we do that by creating that environment where players do not feel under too much pressure every game.”

Tickets are still available online, over the phone by calling 01223 566500 (option 1) or by visiting the Abbey Stadium Ticket Office on Matchday.

If you can't make it to the game, stream the clash live on iFollow. Match Passes cost just £10 and are available to buy now. The simplest way to do so is by clicking here and selecting the Oxford fixture.

Kick off 19:00 (UK)

Visit the Live Match Centre to access form guides, live text commentary and live access to the match on iFollow

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