Speaking to the BEN, Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman has been discussing the progress of the club's academy players, an issue close to his heart. Since his arrival in October 2012, Freedman has often spoke of his desire to promote youth from within, without much by way of actual development into the first team, much to the frustration of the supporters.
He has dispensed with the services of some of the more senior members of the reserves, especially, and has brought in new signings such as Conor Wilkinson and most recently Yannick Bastos to boost the quality of the second string. Hayden White, Rob Hall, Cian Bolger have also joined the club, from Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Leicester City respectively to complement home-grown talent such as Tom Youngs, Sanmi Odelusi, Chris Lester and Georg Iliev.
With this, the form of the club's academy and reserve teams has been steadily improving in the last couple of months, and Freedman said:
"I think they are coming along well. I think the result and the performance against Spurs shows there is some development.
"The idea is that eventually these players can be pushing the first-team squad, and then taking over from them. And we're getting much closer with that process but it definitely hasn't been easy.
When I first came to the club there were a lot of older players in that team and I didn't feel we were really pushing them hard enough. There wasn't that way of thinking.
"We have made changes, I think there has been some improvement but the process is ongoing."
Former Millwall man Wilkinson was loaned out to League Two Torquay United last week, making his debut in a 3-1 defeat at Chesterfield, while Odelusi joined MK Dons for a month yesterday, while Bolger moved to Southend. Wilkinson and Lester have spent time out on loan at Chester earlier this season, whilst it has been mooted that Josh Vela could benefit from a similar spell.
The importance of giving the youngsters first-team experience at league level is paramount with their development in mind. Reserve team footy is all well and good but playing actual proper football can only help their progression.