ALBION’s under-23 group will see the benefit of a tough Premier League 2 campaign over the next couple of years, according to Mark Harrison.
The Baggies’ Academy Manager insists that this season will have done much more good than harm for the youngsters, and that the significance of results is minimal compared to the importance of player development.
“When you’re on a development pathway and a development journey then the results aren’t the most important thing,” said Mark.
“The results are the players that you’re bringing through, and only time will tell with that, but we’d like to think that the future is bright - especially with that group of players.
“I think about a month ago the stats came out and we have got the youngest under-23 team in the Premier League. That’s a fact.
“And even those stats are probably a little bit blurred by the fact that we’ve had games where the likes of Gareth McAuley and Claudio Yacob have played.
“So I’m really encouraged, ironically, by the under-23 side because it’s a very young group of players who have stuck at it through some tough times.”
Harrison also explained that, despite a number of players going out on loan for much of the season, it has been hugely beneficial for those who have stayed and stepped up from U18 to PL2 football.
“The most important thing is that you look at each individual player’s programme, and the pathway, and whether it’s right for them,” he added.
“So for instance, having some of the first year scholars - like Nathan Ferguson - who has played 75%, if not more, of the under-23 games is brilliant and he’s only going to develop from that.
“Going up against 20/21 year olds, and in some cases, playing down at Brighton against their first team squad members, that’s what your players need. They need that challenge.
“They’re getting a really good exposure to under-23 football now, and that was the plan, that’s why we made the decisions that we did last year.”