Under 18s coach Simon Wiles has shared his pride after two of young stars made their league debut for the first team on Saturday.
Ryan Rydel and Barry Baggley came off the bench at Walsall at the weekend, taking the total number of Under 18 players to make a first team appearance this season to four.
Both players have impressed for Wiles’ side this season, with the 33-year-old keen to point out the debuts are a mark of the hard work done by all the staff in the club’s academy.
“First of all, it’s a fantastic achievement for the two players,” said Wiles.
“For the academy as a whole, it shows that the work that is being done every day with the players is working. It’s a proud moment for everyone connected to the academy, because the work we’re doing is coming through.
“The lads have to be hungry for more. If that’s putting in work with our staff and sports science team or the analysis set-up, they need to keep utilising the tools they have and they will keep developing. The academy is in a really good place at this time, and I’m delighted the Under 18s are being showcased at the forefront of the club.”
Aged just 17 years and 57 days, Baggley made history by becoming the youngest player to ever represent the club in the EFL. Meanwhile 18-year-old Rydel has been named amongst the substitutes regularly this season, and had to wait patiently for his chance.
“Everyone strives to make their league debut, and I know that Ryan in particular has had to be patient as he’s been close over the last two or three months.
“He’s had to wait for his opportunity, but he has to keep impressing the manager and keep knocking on the door as there are good players ahead of him. It was great for him to get 20 minutes league experience, and I’m sure it was a proud moment for him and his family.
“As for young Barry, he travelled on Friday – probably not expecting to be named on the bench – but he was, then for him to play the last ten minutes was fantastic. I’m sure both players now want more, and are hungry to play in the first team more frequently.
“It’s very tough to go and get a career in football, but the fact the lads have had this exposure to first team football at 17/18 years of age is fantastic.
“But saying that, they need to remain humble and professional, and that message is reinforced throughout the season with our lads.
“All the players in the Under 18s are hungrier than ever, because they can see a clear pathway, especially with Ryan and Barry coming on and making their league debuts on Saturday.
“Great opportunities are ahead for all the players if they knuckle down and work hard, it’s as simple as that.”