Academy manager Scott Sellars has the best interests of the football scholars at the club’s renowned Platt Lane complex at heart when the weekly decision over who will feature for the Under 18 side is made.
The former Leeds, Blackburn and Newcastle midfielder has been keen to look at how younger players react to playing against slightly older opponents, but at the same time does not want to adversely affect their long-term development.
Scott says, “I think we are very fair and that we are giving all the boys a chance. Some can come in at 16, look good but within six months that can change. We’ve mixed it up a lot over the year, the team is rarely the same over two games and especially at this time of year we try to give everyone a go.
“Schoolboys have played in the Under 18s, which we think is vital – if we think they are ready, they step up – and the Under 16s contains a few under 15s. We try to treat them as individuals as well as in a team sense, think about what is best for certain players.
“For example, George Evans is 16, and we rested him after the Forest game because I think it’s at that stage when lads can burn out or get injured. Since then he’s come back into the team, and Albert Ruznak has had a rest as he’s about to play twice for Slovakia so that’s how we try to look after all of them to get them through what is a fair old haul.
“I was the same as the lads now – I wanted to play every week!
Sometimes they won’t see it as for their benefit, they will think it’s better to play every game. But we have to look at the bigger picture and sometimes we will think it is better for someone to have a rest.
“They may not like it, but as long as we explain it and are consistent in that approach they are OK with it. They understand that the aim is to give everyone a chance.”
The Academy puts great emphasis on the education of its scholars away from the training pitch, something Scott hopes will give them an enhanced appreciation of the responsibilities that come with their profession.
He adds, “We’re an academy, but not only do we want to educate them as footballers, but also as people. We are trying to put things in place in terms of their education off the pitch to make sure they realise what an honour it is to be a footballer, especially at this football club.
“They must appreciate it, not take it for granted and just think that because they are now here as an Under 18 they will now make it. It’s a long journey, and they must have all the tools, not just football tools.”