Cass "relishing" EFL Trophy opener
Written by Luke Vinton
Lewis Cass is hopeful Newcastle United under-21s can get their EFL Trophy campaign off to a strong start ahead of Tuesday's Northern Section Group C trip to Shrewsbury Town.
Chris Hogg's side, one of 11 Category One academies taking part in this term's competition, travel to Montgomery Waters Meadow to face the League One outfit (kick-off 5.30pm BST), with trips to Crewe Alexandra and Bolton Wanderers to follow over the next two months.
Newcastle's youngsters, who made their tournament debut in 2017/18, lost all three group games last season, including a 3-0 defeat against the Shrews, but Cass remains excited for the task ahead.
The versatile defender told nufc.co.uk: "You're always looking forward to the first game of the EFL Trophy. In past years, we've done quite well so we want to replicate that and hopefully get off to a winning start against Shrewsbury.
"These games are definitely the ones we look out for when the under-23s fixtures get released. We want to test ourselves against experienced players so it will be a good challenge for myself and the rest of the group.
"We know a lot about what Shrewsbury do after playing them in our second group game last season. I don't think their formation will have changed too much since then but we know those players are very talented in that league. It will be a tough game but a one we will be relishing."
"Last year, we were gutted not to qualify after some of the performances. We thought we could have got better results against Port Vale and Macclesfield so the first game is definitely key. We want to go there, play our football and hopefully the result will take care of itself.
United's second-string reached the Northern Section quarter-finals two years ago as the young Magpies impressively won all three of their group games and saw off Macclesfield Town on penalties against St. James' Park before eventually bowing out at the last 16 stage to League One Sunderland.
Cass, who signed his first professional contract in 2018, was part of the side which qualified for the knockout stages and believes a positive run in the EFL Trophy can only benefit himself and the developing youngsters.
"If you can get out of the group stage and progress in the competition, you get to play against better opponents and test yourself even further," the 20-year-old added. "If we can start off with a win, it will set us up in the right way for the rest of the group stage to give us a chance of progressing.
"Being experienced, the older players will have to tell the younger ones what to expect. That has been handed down from the people who have been there before me. Once the whistle is blown, you can't shy away and have to get on with it.
"We have some good opposition to face in the group stage this year. They are all very talented sides but we are too. If we can play our best football, we have a great chance of progressing."
"These games are definitely the ones we all look out for when the fixtures get released. We want to test ourselves against experienced players so it will be a good challenge for myself and the rest of the group."