By Declan Taylor
This season’s FA Youth Cup campaign has provided Steve Bould with a “buzz” not experienced since his playing days and the Academy boss wants to prove a point by bringing the trophy back to Arsenal for the first time since 2001.
The Gunners host Liverpool in the first leg of the Youth Cup Final on Friday with the pair settling the tie at Anfield on Tuesday.
The Merseysiders are genuine heavyweights in this competition having lifted the trophy twice in the last three years but, for Bould, there’s no question which Academy is the cream of the country.
And not only will victory over Liverpool secure the most prestigious trophy in youth football, but it would go some way in quenching one of the manager’s long-standing thirsts.
“I’ve heard former pros say they miss training but the biggest thing I miss about playing is winning. It’s as simple as that,” Bould told Arsenal.com.
“I hadn’t felt that buzz really until that Tottenham Quarter-Final – it felt like I was playing again believe it or not. Before, during and after the game was very similar. It was as close as I’ve been since I retired.
“We certainly don’t want to go up there and just play and get beaten because we’re there now. Everybody does look at you and if you don’t win it you can’t say you’re the best team.
“I personally believe we’ve got the best players in the country - bar none - regardless of the result.
“We’ve been a bit off-colour recently but I think they’re returning to their level. At Spurs [in the League Final] we did look something more like we did a few months ago. We looked like we’re getting back to something like we were all season.”
But, as ever, Bould is looking at the bigger picture when it comes to youth football.
Lifting the trophy at Anfield next Tuesday could go a long way in proving that Arsenal’s method of development is the one to follow.
“We’re not looking for Youth Cups, we’re looking for good players,” Bould stated.
“I don’t think you can question people if you aren’t doing it yourself. I think winning it might just allow people to see we have good kids.
“But my biggest ambition is to improve our group here. I certainly don’t believe that English kids are at the level they should be at. I think it hits you between the eyes. There should be no reason why our kids aren’t as good as the Spanish, the French or the Dutch.
“I believe we’re technically very good and we’re getting better and improving all the time. I’m not saying this should be done on our model but I think we all need to improve. That’s as big an ambition for me as staying in football.”