West Brom starlets will get their chance
Albion under-23 boss Jamie Smith says Albion’s emerging stars will get their chance this season – so long as they remain patient.
The Baggies have a host of talented youngsters on their books with the likes of Kyle Edwards, Sam Field, Jonathan Leko and Rekeem Harper all knocking on the door of the first team, writes Joseph Masi.
Despite their talents, those players have found playing time in the Championship hard to come by.
Edwards came off the bench in an impressive 28-minute cameo against Reading last weekend.
Field meanwhile featured as a late substitute against both Bristol City and Preston.
Leko and Harper though are yet to feature. But Smith says there will all get their chance if they keep performing for his under-23s.
“The first team have been doing well – results have been good,” the former Wolves, Palace and Fulham man said. “From that point of view, it’s very difficult to change a winning team.
“There is not a lot the lads can do from that point of view.
“The players have just got to stay patient, keep working hard and hopefully their chance will come.
“And when it does come, they have to take it.
“It’s a long, long season. There are a lot of cup games. The lads who played in the Carabao Cup game did themselves justice.
“That’s all they can do when the first team are playing the way they are playing.
“It’s a tricky one because hopefully, these players will get their chance, but hopefully the first team will keep winning. But with the number of games there are in the Championship, they will get their chance at some point.”
Smith’s side has looked to mirror the 3-4-1-2 formation used by Darren Moore and the first team in their past four outings.
And the coach believes it benefits his youngsters – and the senior players – if both teams stick to the same system.
“I spoke to the gaffer (Moore) and the first-team staff and we think it’s important – when first-team players step down – they still have an idea of their roles and responsibilities in that system,” Smith continued. “And I think it’s a system that suits my players, they look very comfortable in it.
“They also need to understand their roles and responsibilities in that formation because they are one step away from playing in that first-team.
“They need to know what they are doing.
“At times we have tweaked it slightly. We have had two No.10s behind the striker whereas the first team has one No.10 behind the front two.
“We have been flexible, but I do believe it is easier for the under-23s to step up if they are playing the same system as the first team.”
The likes of James Morrison, Oliver Burke and Jonathan Bond have all spent time with the under-23s in recent weeks.
Morrison played in a 1-0 win against Liverpool on Sunday.
But Smith says all the senior players have done what they can to help the younger lads.
“We beat Liverpool which was fantastic for the boys,” he said. “They performed really well in the game. There were some experienced players in there as well – we had James Morrison.
“And I’ve got to say he has been fantastic coming down and working with the 23s and playing with the 23s. It’s not always easy as a first-team player to come in and play under-23s.
“But he has been an outstanding professional with the way he has gone about his business.
“He has been a positive influence on my players both on and off the pitch.
“He is happy to talk to the players during the game, at half-time and before a game.
“He wants to help and encourage. So playing with him has been a real positive.
“And it’s been the same whenever the first-team players have dropped down this season.
“They have all conducted themselves in a positive manner.
“They have been real professionals and gone about their business in the right way.
“That has helped with the young squad we have got. There have been no issues.
“They have all been fantastic. They have been real role models.”
Smith was appointed under-23 coach in the summer having previously worked with Albion’s 12 to 16 age group. And he admits he’s happy with his new role.
“I am enjoying it,” he added. “The transition has been pretty easy because of the players I am working with.
“Some of them I’ve been working with since I was with the 12 to under 16 group.
“From that point of view, it’s been quite seamless.”