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West Brom's new under-23s boss urges youngsters to grab chance with first team

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Albion’s youngsters have been told to grab their chance to shine while they are so prominently in the spotlight.

Jamie Smith. Photo: WBA

Thanks to a summer that has seen more outs than ins so far, head coach Darren Moore has been casting his eye over the club’s youngsters while working on deals for new players.

Several have impressed him so far, with Kyle Edwards, Kane Wilson and Jack Fitzwater all playing well in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Barnet.

Coach Jamie Smith, who has stepped up from the under-18s to the under-23s following James Shan’s promotion to the first team, thinks now is the perfect opportunity to make an impression.

“The door’s opened up for them,” he said. “Obviously the way things are at the minute, there’s a chance for them to shine in front of the gaffer and Jimmy and some of them have taken that opportunity which is brilliant.”

Albion have lost five senior players this summer and sent three loanees back to their parent clubs, but have only signed one replacement so far, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

However, the Championship season starts in just over three weeks and the club are stepping up their efforts in the transfer market.

They are closing in on a deal of just over £3.5m for Swansea defender Kyle Bartley and have made offers for other players which could shunt the youngsters back down the pecking order.

Smith, though, is confident that Moore and Shan will not ignore the potential of Albion’s academy stars, having been coaches in the system themselves for years.

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“The gaffer and Jimmy know them really well,” he said. “They’re in a different environment now, a first-team environment so it’s really good that they’re getting a chance early in pre-season to impress.

“To have a relationship with your players is a big part of your role as staff member. It’s important to motivate them, challenge them and keep them focused.

“It’s not easy to become a professional footballer. It’s a tough career so we have a really important role in that.”

Moore was particularly impressed at Barnet with the youngsters who had grown out on loan with lower-league teams last season and Smith expects that policy to continue.

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“There will be a few that go out,” he said. “I’m not sure it will be as many. It depends on how well they do with the first team, they might not need to go out on loan.

“It depends on what players the gaffer brings in before we make those decisions.

“It’s a positive that our boys went on loan last season. You can see in the way they carry themselves, they’re a lot more mature about their business on and off the pitch.”

Albion’s under-23s are flying out to the Czech Republic on Thursday for a four-day pre-season trip.

“We’re playing three games in four days,” explained Smith. “There will be a little bit of tactical work off the pitch and a lot of playing games.

“We’ll be looking at principles we want to work on in and out of possession.”

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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