Curle plans to keep handing chances to academy starlets

Jay Williams played 14 games for the first-team last season. Picture: Pete Norton
Jay Williams played 14 games for the first-team last season. Picture: Pete Norton

Keith Curle has confirmed he intends to keep handing first-team opportunities to the club's academy players after Cobblers finished Tuesday's friendly against Sheffield Wednesday with five teenagers on the pitch.

Defender Jay Williams, still only 18, has become a familiar face among Northampton supporters after playing 14 senior matches last season and he again both started and finished Tuesday's friendly, alongside fellow academy graduate Shaun McWilliams, now a regular member of the first-team squad.

Scott Pollock, Ryan Hughes and Morgan Roberts, who have also featured for the first-team under Curle, were introduced in the second-half against Wednesday, as was Jack Newell who impressed on-loan at Corby Town last season.

Without a number of players due to fitness problems on Tuesday, Curle had a threadbare squad to pick from but he says it was no token gesture to play Town's academy starlets and insists they will continue to get chances even once the real stuff kicks off next month.

"When you think we're finishing the game with six players from the youth academy on the field of play, that shows the belief and the trust we've got in the youth system and the players that are coming through," said the Town boss.

"We're still keen to involve them and when we train, the younger players and the developing players are training with us."

Cobblers' preparations for the new season are taken up another notch on Saturday when Premier League Sheffield United come to town for their fourth pre-season friendly - but again Curle will not be afraid to throw in the likes of Newell, Hughes and Pollock.

He added: "There's nothing better for them to come out and test themselves and challenge themselves against a very good Championship team and it won't be any different on Saturday against a Premier League team.

"We finished with six players that were products of the academy on Tuesday and that's a great experience for them. Scotty Pollock had the man-marking role of (Barry) Bannan to try and stop him playing - there are Championship teams that can't stop him playing and getting on the ball.

"He's got good movement, good understanding and works off shoulders, but again it's a great education of our young players."