Smith: Rewards coming after trio of wins

ALBION Under-23s boss Jamie Smith is delighted with the application his players have displayed to cap-off an encouraging start to the season with a trio of wins.

The Baggies youngsters triumphed over Stoke City and Liverpool before earning a debut Checkatrade Trophy victory over Blackpool’s first-team on Tuesday.

Finn Azaz and Alex Bradley were on the scoresheet at Bloomfield Road as Smith’s men recorded the Club’s maiden three points in the competition.

“It’s been really enjoyable, and enjoyable for the players as well,” said Jamie.

“Performances have been good so far this season, but unfortunately the results hadn't quite gone our way to begin with. The lads stuck at it though and are now getting the rewards for their performances.

“I kept saying to the lads ‘keep going, it’ll come’, and fortunately now in the last week the rewards have come. It was always going to come with the way we’ve been performing, it was just a matter of time.

“We were making sure that the players stayed motivated and kept working hard, and tried to stress to them that if they kept doing the right things then the results would change.

“The game at Blackpool was a really, really good performance. It was a performance where they had to show different aspects to their game.

“They had to defend a lot of direct balls and a lot of balls into our box, which you don't always get at under-23 level, so it was a real challenge for the players and one they stood up to really well.”

Jamie stepped up from under-18s manager to take on the role in the summer when Jimmy Shan joined the first-team coaching staff.

He’s been proud to see a number of his players get themselves in and around Darren Moore’s squad, and believes it will not only help them as individuals but also as a collective group.

“Them training and working with the first-team players day-in and day-out will definitely benefit them,” he added.

“It’s helped when they’ve dropped down to the under-23s, helping them and helping the younger players below them to benefit from it too.

“There’s a definite pathway here for players, but there’s a pathway for coaches here at the Academy as well. Jimmy Shan started with the under-7s, and he’s worked his way right up. I came here to work with the under-12 to under-16s and now I find myself with the under-23s.

“It’s pretty much the same group of players that I worked with at the under-18s that I’m working with now. From that point of view, the transition has been seamless really. I’ve known quite a few of the players for a long time as I’ve been here for eight years now, and most of those players have been here for the same amount of time.”

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