Further FA Youth Cup progress is in Ipswich Town rising star Liam Gibbs' sights ahead of quarter-final with Sheffield United
Liam Gibbs is determined to do all he can to put a smile back on Ipswich Town fans’ faces as he looks to take an already memorable FA Youth Cup run into a dream semi-final.
Adem Atay’s under-18s side host Sheffield United at Portman Road on Friday (5pm) as the only non-Premier League club left in the competition’s quarter-finals line-up.
And the reward for further progress, against a fellow Category 2 academy side, would be huge for the Sky Bet League One club with either Liverpool or Arsenal in a televised last four encounter at home, to be played before May 15.
Bury St Edmunds-raised Gibbs is the only player in the Blues’ squad with a senior league appearance under his belt, having been picked by Paul Lambert to start at home to Charlton Athletic in November.
Town’s respected head of coaching and player development, Bryan Klug, described the attacking midfielder in an interview with SuffolkNews last summer as ‘one of the most talented people I have worked with’.
It came after Town's former England international Kieron Dyer, who was his former U18s manager, hailed him as an ‘exciting player’ with ‘a massive future’ on leaving the academy ahead of returning this season as the under-23s boss.
And the former Tollgate Primary School and County Upper School pupil is hoping to show Sheffield United just why he has attracted interest from Premier League clubs ahead of his contract being set to expire at the end of the season.
“I am definitely looking to lead by example and showcase my talent,” he said.
“This is my second season in the FA Youth Cup. We were knocked out by Cardiff last year and every since then I’ve wanted to get back into it and so this year was a great opportunity and the team has done really well to get as far as they have.
“No matter what happens in the next game we’ve done the club proud and I’m proud of every single player because the journey we’ve had is unbelievable.
“We’re now the underdogs in the competition, so to get any further than this is going to be amazing.”
But with Category 1 academy sides in Fulham – where Gibbs scored in a comeback from 2-0 to win 3-2 at Portman Road – and Middlesbrough – winning 1-0 on Teeside in the last round – already vanquished there is no lack of belief they can go further.
We are definitely looking to give the fans some excitement and something to cheer and it will be hopefully be really good for the club if we can get into the semi-finals - Liam Gibbs
“The team is going to fight to stay in this competition as long as possible which is what we’ve done in all our previous rounds,” said Gibbs.
“I think with our group of players we stand a chance because we can find ways to win games.”
With fans currently unable to the games, Sheffield United will be running a live stream of the match via their website. And Gibbs is hopeful of making it an enjoyable experience for the Blue army, following enduring more than 10 hours without seeing the first team score a goal.
“We are definitely looking to give the fans some excitement and something to cheer and it will be hopefully be really good for the club if we can get into the semi-finals,” he said.
Gibbs, who is the brother of former Needham Market and Bury player Ryan and Walsham-le-Willows’ Jordan, has been with Ipswich since being spotted playing for Bury Town Under-9s.
He has been offered a new contract to extend his stay at the club but it is expected he will not confirm any decision until the end of the season.
Assessing Friday's opponents, who like Town are going well near the top of their development league, he said: "We do play Sheffield United once in the season in our league and they are a very physical team. They are a very well-drilled, solid team like sides in the Northern Division usually are.
"It will be a very tough tie but hopefully we've got enough to win the tie."
Ipswich Town have won the FA Youth Cup three times previously, in 1973, 1975 and, in more recent times, in 2005.
Gibbs will be hoping the town's historical link with the competition can be a good omen for him as Blues fans prepare to see how much more this class of 2020/21 has in store for them.