Akeel Higgins | Using positive PL Cup flashbacks key to progression

A photo of Akeel Higgins in 2023/24 blue training gear

Akeel Higgins says he’ll be using his Premier League Cup form from last term as motivation when Albion’s PL2 team host Reading in the same competition on Monday night (ko 7pm).

The tournament was Higgins’ stepping stone into the professional ranks during the 2022/23 season, where he both scored and assisted - contributions he’s eager to replicate this time around when the young Baggies play the Royals in their final group match at Keys Park.

But more prestigious cup competitions have brought the 19-year-old’s game on further this year - playing under Head Coach Carlos Corberán in the Emirates FA Cup clash with Aldershot, and confidence was clearly taken from that experience.

Later in January, Akeel netted against West Ham in a PL2 game but with cup progression on the line next up, Albion’s 21s need a point to guarantee passage into the knockout stages of the PL Cup - something Higgins is eager to ensure with a contribution of his own.

He said: “It was a surreal experience when I stepped on the pitch to make my senior debut in the FA Cup.

“I’ve been working towards the opportunity, being in and around the first team and they’ve all helped me progress in my journey. I’ve become a better player with their help and they’ve improved my confidence, because I’ve been lacking a bit in front of goal recently.

A photo of Akeel Higgins, in 2023/24 home colours, playing his debut in the Emirates FA Cup v Aldershot
Akeel Higgins making his senior Albion debut against Aldershot Town

“I need to kick-start my second year as a pro with a strong finish to this season. It was a similar story when I was a scholar; my first year I wasn’t scoring much, then I went into the second year contributing regularly with the 18s and 21s.

“I want that scenario to be the same this time around but this year, I've quickly understood from Bealey that the defensive work is just as important as the attacking stuff, even as a forward player.

“Every game I could do what I do at the top end of the pitch, but making sure I help my full-back out in two-v-one situations is just as important as scoring a goal and that’s crucial to my game now.

"When the chances come, I’m confident in myself of taking and making my own chances. Obviously, three points are the important thing so I’ll do everything I can to get the team over the line.

A photo of Akeel Higgins celebrating scoring a goal v West Ham with Josh Shaw
Akeel Higgins celebrating his goal v West Ham back in January

“I had more exposure to the PL Cup during my second year as a scholar and Bealey put faith in me to perform in this competition.

“We’ve won it before and for him to introduce me into the squad helped massively. I managed to get a couple of assists last year, a goal too, so when I play in this tournament now I get good flashbacks from what I was showing last year and that gives me a boost.

“We’re doing well as a group and collectively everyone’s happy with where we are. There’s no breaks now so it’s all gas no brakes - let’s just finish the group stage strong.

“The lads are very close and tightly bonded. It’s a good team to work with because we all know each others strengths and we’re going to work towards making the most of them in order to end the season on a high.”

How to follow match

Tickets will be available on the gate at Keys Park for Albion's PL Cup clash against Reading on Monday night.

They are priced at £5 adults and £1 concessions.

Free entry for season ticket holders is not available for this fixture.

WBA TV+ subscribers will be able to watch a live stream of the game here from 6.20pm.

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