It’s easy to throw in young players into the team when you have nothing to lose, but I think Paul Heckingbottom at least deserves some credit for introducing youth into the squad since his arrival at the club.
Injuries have certainly forced his hand to a large extent but it looks like a greater number of youngsters will be given their opportunity to impress over the coming weeks.
With Bailey Peacock-Farrell already having made a name for himself in goal, and Tom Pearce having been thrown in the deep end by making his debut in the derby against Wednesday, it looks as though a couple more could be offered first team chances soon.
The sight of Matthew Pennington limping off against Fulham was described as a “real kick in the b***s” by Hecky but it seems he has been preparing for the eventuality. Paudie O’Connor has been training with the first team squad in preparation for a starting opportunity.
The Irishman has yet to make his debut for us since he made the move from Limerick over a year ago, but the manager says he could be in line for a start soon enough:
“Paudie’s been training with us because of the injuries and the players we’ve got missing at centre-back. It’s important that if he’s needed he knows what we want from him and he feels comfortable. “Then we’re not just throwing him in last minute.”
Sam Dalby is in a similar situation. The 18 year old was snapped up in January from Leyton Orient. The striker travelled with the squad on Tuesday for the 2-0 defeat at Craven Cottage although he didn’t make the bench, but it looks likely we’ll see a first team bow for him before the end of May.
Unlike O’Connor, he has some first team experience playing in England after featuring in League Two last campaign, as well as in a couple matches in the National League this season.
Whether they can step up to the mark to play in the Championship, we’ll have to wait and see. Although it can only be a positive thing that we are allowing our youth players a chance at senior level, the fact that the manager has been forced into it, despite us having signed so many players over the past 12 months, really says a lot about our recruitment process.