Danks targets first-team pathway for his Under-18s
ALBION Under-18 boss Aaron Danks makes no bones about his targets for next season.
“They will be to produce players for the first-team,” he says, “as well as players who Tony Pulis will want to work with during his training sessions.
“We will try to push as many players as possible under his nose.
“If we can have a good league and FA Youth Cup run then great, but producing players for the first-team is our main goal.”
Danks’s mission statement for 2015-16 reflects the from the Baggies Head Coach to fast-track youngsters into higher age groups, something already apparent in last season’s Under-21s campaign which featured several Under-18 and Under-16 players.
And Pulis has shown he is ready to propel the Academy’s starlets – 16-year-old forward Tyler Roberts won a place on the bench at the Emirates against Arsenal, while Jonathon Leko, of the same age and position as Roberts, was also part of the travelling squad.
But catching senior eyes isn’t the only thing that Danks and his men have done well this season.
Albion finished fourth in their regular Barclays U18 Premier League South campaign, qualifying for the elite tier play-offs.
Memorable victories along the way included a 6-0 thrashing of local rivals Villa and a 2-0 win at Arsenal, but the Under-18 boss labelled a narrow victory over Southampton as his favourite game of the season.
He said: “We had some big wins over Villa and Arsenal, but the 2-1 win at Southampton was most enjoyable for me.
“They are a fantastic academy and have produced countless numbers of players for their first-team over the last decade.
“We went 1-0 up early on but then had a man sent-off before they equalised.
“Many would have expected Southampton to go on and win the game comfortably but we showed real grit and determination and managed to win the game 2-1.
“The players displayed that trait throughout the whole season, digging in and grinding out results.
“That determination helped us qualify for the elite group play-offs and that was a magnificent achievement to qualify alongside some of the top teams and academies in the country.”