Youth players still in Curle's plans despite reduced game-time

More opportunities to play for the first-team will be given to Cobblers' youth players if they continue to work hard this season, manager Keith Curle has promised.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 8:27 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 8:28 am
Keith Curle and Scott Pollock

Academy players have combined for almost 100 appearances since Curle took the reins last October, most of which have gone to Shaun McWilliams, Jay Williams and Scott Pollock.

But with the Cobblers in such fine form over recent weeks and hunting down a top-seven spot in Sky Bet League Two, opportunities have been a little more limited this season.

Youngsters are regularly invited to train with the first-team, though, and Curle believes just being involved in the environment will do wonders for their progress.

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He said: "They're on a development programme and part of their development is being in and around the first-team, training with them on a daily basis.

"The emergence of the young players and the game-time they've had in the first-team probably isn't as much as it has been previously.

"But within their development, some have been out of loan and some will still go out on loan when January comes around.

"The one downside is that they haven't had enough game-time but the team's winning and they're on the fringes, and if they maintain their upward spiral, they will get more opportunities."

Curle's dedication to promoting youth players was again evident last Tuesday when 18-year-old Michael Harding was given his senior debut at Portsmouth in the EFL Trophy while left-back Jacob Ballinger made the bench.

"It was good for both Mikey and Jacob," Curle added. "I spoke about those two young lads with Jon Brady and took advice from him on who's been doing well.

"I've also spoke to Kells (David Kelly) because he's been monitoring and watching the youth players and it was an opportunity for them to step up and be involved in our environment.

"I would have liked to get Jacob on the pitch as well but it's about getting them involved in our environment and they've trained with us again.

"That's how we operate - we invite the young players to come and train with us and they've got to show what they have to offer and the pleasing thing is we have a welcoming environment.

"It's demanding but it's welcoming and I can tell you now - those players won't be turning up with dirty boots! Players don't want dirty boots in their environment - they want high standards and they demand high standards."