Swindon Town have been faithful supporters of the Northern Ireland Milk Cup having competed over the past 16 years, enjoying reasonable success during that time.
The Robins won the Milk Cup in 2006, followed by the BT Trophy in 2007 and Academy Manager Jeremy Newton is in no doubt as to the calibre of the tournament and the advantages of bringing his young squad to Northern Ireland.
“The Milk Cup is a challenging environment for our players as they get the opportunity to test themslves against players from all over the world,” commented Newton.
“It is totally different to our normal programmes as the mentallity of the boys has to change. Many of them have never played in front of crowds before and it allows the staff to see how they handle things.
“The standard at the Milk Cup is exceptional and by competing here we get the opportunity to learn from other teams and to bring something back to our own programme.”
Over the years the tournament has proved to be a great tool for coaches to see how a young player copes with the pressures of being away from home and playing in new conditions.
“This year we have only two players in the squad who have played in the tournament, so that is 16 lads in an unfamiliar environment, “ added Jeremy.
“They don’t know what to expect, they won’t be expecting the crowd that the tournament gets and some players will thrive and others will freeze. It’s important that they learn to handle it quickly. Unfortunately the Parade was cancelled because of the rain so they didn’t get the opportunity to experience that but it’s one of those things.”
Having been at the Milk Cup for the past 12 years himself what main changes has the Robins Academy Manager seen?
“To be honest the only thing is moving the finals away from Coleraine Showgrounds. I think it’s important the tournament finishes where it starts. It’s lost something since that changed. Players enter the tournament through Coleraine Showgrounds, its the final part of the week and I think the finals should be played there too.”
Swindon Town got their campaign off the ground against County Armagh on Monday before they face the much talked about Right to Dream on Tuesday and Liverpool on Wednesday and the Academy boss is under no false illusions about the task ahead.
“There are no easy games in the Milk Cup. It’s a brilliant tournament, that’s the challenge of it and that’s why we return year after year.”