ALBION’s under-23s boss James Shan is pleased with the progress and development of his young players despite a difficult Premier League 2 campaign so far.
The young Baggies have endured a tough season, but may still claim Birmingham Senior Cup glory, having reached the quarter-finals of the competition.
And Shan insists it is important to put his side’s results, with a number of players gaining league experience on loan, into the context of his main target - to prepare youngsters for first-team action.
“People need to be aware that we’ve got a young, young squad week-in, week-out,” explained Shan.
“The average age of our team is around 18, and it’s ever changing because we struggle to build any momentum in terms of putting a settled team out there as we’re heavily reliant upon the under-18s filling our squad.
“We’re very strong on sending players out on loan, and those players that have gone out have done very, very well and gained some wonderful experience.
“When they come back in the building you can see their progression and development, and that’s key. All it means is that we’re left a little bit short and our elite players at under-18 level have been thrust into the under-23s team maybe a fraction too early.”
Since triumphs over Ipswich and Fulham in January Shan’s side have found a win hard to come by, but he believes this tough spell will set them up well for the future and is a key part of any young player’s journey.
Shan added: “Their development coming through a period like this should help them have a really strong campaign next season and we’ll be more competitive in terms of results because the boys are definitely improving.
“I need to stress that we have some exceptional talent in the building.
“When I first took over the under-23s we had back-to-back seasons and spells where we went unbeaten for 10 or 11 games and three or four months. We were winning games regularly and challenging for the league and play-off positions.
“This season if you look at the league table and look at results you’d think there are no players in the building, when it’s the complete opposite.
“We’ve probably got more talent in the Academy now, that will be competing to play in our first team, than we did when I started.”