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News Archive > Sport > Harry leads Pilgrims to double cup upset

Harry leads Pilgrims to double cup upset

By Tom Howe 10th January 2018

Harry leads Pilgrims to double cup upset
BACK HOME: Plymouth Argyle defender Harry Downing marks Newquay striker Glen Squires during the team´s South West Peninsula League encounter back in September

ST NEWLYN East teenager Harry Downing is targeting further success after leading Plymouth Argyle under-18s to victory over academies from Manchester City and Burnley, writes Tom Howe.

Downing, 18 in March, captained the underdogs as they knocked City out of the FA Youth Cup on penalties last month - a result which sent the competition’s runner-up for the last three seasons packing - before beating another Premier League Academy, Burnley, in their own back yard last Friday evening.  

It is a major achievement for Kevin Hodges' side against some of the best young players in the world and has caught the eye of many of the big teams, with scouts from some leadings clubs said to be keeping an eye on Argyle's young stars.

Having also knocked out AFC Wimbledon and Eastleigh, Argyle are safely into the hat for the fifth round proper and could potentially face one of either Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Arsenal or even holders Chelsea.

Downing told the NewquayVoice: "We are growing in confidence every single day and feel that we can beat anybody we are put up against on the day. We will just have to see how far it can take us in the competition.

"With the draw coming up soon it would be nice to get drawn against another big team so we can test ourselves against the best and show everyone what we are about once again."

A former student at Newquay Tretherras, Downing grew up playing for Newquay AFC Youth before being picked up by Plymouth Argyle at the age of 12 following his involvement in the Westcountry Cup.

In the five years since then, Downing has matured into a hard-working centre-back, and put his talent to good use with both City (held to a 0-0 draw, with Plymouth winning 6-5 on spot kicks) and Burnley (0-1) unable to break down Argyle's stubborn defence.

He continued: "I have been at Argyle for over five years now and have developed a lot in that time, not just as a player but as a person. They teach you from a young age a lot of skills that you will need in everyday life too such as discipline and time management for example.

"I came to Argyle as a midfielder but have been converted to a centre-back and I am now very comfortable on the ball. The coach that really sticks out for developing me the most would be Aaron Cusack.

"He knows everything about the game and would tell me things every session which I would not have even thought about before, which I could then try and implement in my own game. He was also very patient with me, embracing my mistakes as he knew that I would learn from them and become a better player in the long run."

Downing has played a key role in the success of Argyle’s South West Peninsula and Youth Alliance sides this season, utilising the experience to help Plymouth progress in the country’s premier cup competition for under–18 sides.

"I still can’t believe what we have achieved in the two games, it is crazy. The two games were very different in some ways but we approached them the exact same. Being the underdog on both occasions may have worked in our favour as there was less pressure and people did not expect much from us.

"However, I think all the players and staff knew what we were capable of and all we wanted to do was go out there and prove to everyone what we can do.

"For Burnley we went up the day before in a coach and stayed the night in a hotel which really did us well as we could replicate the preparation for the other three Youth Cup games as much as possible by training in the morning before the game.

"Both games were of a very high standard but both contrasting styles of play. Manchester City wanted to pass their way through us whilst Burnley wanted to hit balls into the channel and turn us so we had to adapt our game plan to suit this.

"It was a really good experience to test ourselves against some of the best players of our age in the world. For example, City had players that had been away with England and won the under-17 World Cup in the summer, so to do well against this caliber of player has only given us confidence.

"It was a pleasure to be captain for the two games as I feel I have always had good leadership qualities and think I can benefit the team a lot when I am given this role."

The remaining fourth round ties are being played this week and next with the fifth round due to go ahead on or around Saturday, February 10.

By Tom Howe 10th January 2018

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