Colchester United academy manager Jon De Souza says the current influx of home-grown players in the club’s first team can be “aspirational” for their young players.

The U’s under-23s side host Newcastle United in their second Premier League Cup group game at the Community Stadium tonight (kick-off 7pm), with their youngsters looking to impress and catch the eye of first-team head coach John McGreal.

Five of Colchester’s academy players – Tom Lapslie, Frankie Kent, Drey Wright, Kane Vincent-Young and Sammie Szmodics – have started each of the club’s last two League Two matches.

And U’s youth chief De Souza says that can only serve as inspiration for their other young talent.

De Souza told the Daily Gazette: “It’s the youngsters’ job every day to try and make the manager’s job as hard as possible.

“But the first team are doing very well, so it’s a very difficult team to get into.

“All we can do is keep pushing the players to do their absolutely best to try and get into the first team.

“The philosophy at the club is to promote young players into the first team.

“There’s been five academy players who have started for the first team in the last two matches and the team are doing very well, so it can only be aspirational to the rest of the academy.”

Colchester’s youngsters are looking to make progress in the Premier League Cup, a competition in which they reached the quarter-finals last season.

Wayne Brown’s side beat the likes of Manchester City and Sunderland last time around and De Souza says they are looking for similar success, this time around as they prepare to face a Newcastle under-23s side coached by former England striker Peter Beardsley.

He said: “We have two Premier League clubs in Newcastle and then Swansea City on Thursday, so fingers crossed for both games.

“We’re hoping for a decent crowd for the Newcastle game and again, it’s about replicating the first team games so the more people there, the better.

“We had a great time in the Premier League Cup last season and if we can replicate anything like that again this year, it’ll be terrific.

“We’re delighted with the way things are going this season.

“We’ve had a bit of success from a team point of view and we have a few games coming up between now and Christmas like the under-23s playing the likes of Newcastle and Swansea and the under-18s playing Crewe in the FA Youth Cup.

“The ultimate aim is to get players in the first team but between now and then, it’s about giving the players as many experiences as possible.”