Curle ‘won’t stop’ giving first-team chances to young players

Ryan Hughes. Picture: Pete Norton/Getty Images
Ryan Hughes. Picture: Pete Norton/Getty Images

Keith Curle will not be ‘scared’ to keep giving young players opportunities in the first-team after he selected two teenagers in the starting line-up for Saturday’s game at Cheltenham Town.

In total, eight different academy players have featured for the first-team this season, the last of which came at Whaddon Road on Saturday when 17-year-old Ryan Hughes made his debut at centre-back.

We’re trying to create a learning, developing environment at the club and the best place young players to learn is out on the pitch.

Fellow teenager Jay Williams also started, making his 13th appearance of the campaign in central midfield, and despite Town seeing their play-off hopes dramatically diminish with a 3-1 defeat in the Cotswolds, Curle insists he will not be afraid to continue throwing young players in at the deep end.

“I’m not scared to give young players an opportunity and that’s important,” he said. “We’re trying to create a learning, developing environment at the club and the best place for young players to learn is out on the pitch.

“If you’re good enough and if the timing is right, I will give them the opportunity and that won’t stop.”

Hughes and Williams were called upon against Cheltenham due to the absence of Aaron Pierre and Jordan Turnbull, both of whom have been key to the Cobblers’ recent good form.

But that wasn’t used as an excuse for Town’s subpar showing by Curle, who said: “It would be easy to hide behind that and easy to say Aaron Pierre must be one hell of a player and Jordan Turnbull as well.

“Those two are fundamental to what we’re doing and they were pieces of the jigsaw that got taken out, but it’s important that players come in, whether it’s a young lad or a bit-part player who’s not had much game-time, and have an understanding of what needs to be done.

“There needs to be that understanding throughout the squad and what was the disappointing thing for me on Saturday was that we didn’t have enough people putting demands on others to do the right things out on the pitch.

“The only pleasing aspect is that it’s a learning curve and if players make mistakes at the wrong time, you will get punished and the players understand that.

“They’re very much aware of it now because we gave a team a two-goal head start by making wrong decisions. What we needed to do, we didn’t do it enough of.

“Every time we did do it and got on the front foot and put balls into good areas and got after them, we looked a better team and there were glimpses of a team getting back to how we’ve been recently.”