First-year scholar Evan Humphries says he’s looking to use the confidence gained by playing in the U21s to help Albion’s PL2 side earn an important Hawthorns win against Norwich City on Monday (ko 7pm).
Since the turn of the year, Humphries has started all of the young Baggies’ Premier League 2 matches, with the 17-year-old filling in at left-back in the absence of Zac Ashworth - currently on loan at Burton Albion - and the injured Josh Shaw.
Hailing from Bishops Cleeve, Cheltenham, the defender believes the call-up to join Richard Beale’s group has come earlier than he’d expected having started the campaign with Leigh Downing’s U18s.
But Evan insists he and his fellow scholars will be looking to repay the “trust” placed in them by the club’s academy coaches if called upon against the Canaries in B71, as Albion’s youngsters look to maintain their push for a promotion place.
Humphries said: ”Being a first-year scholar and having just turned 17 it does feel a bit early to be brought into the environment of a higher age group.
“But I feel like I’ve coped well, I’m building on my performances with the 18s, and overall the confidence levels are starting to grow now.
“I was comfortable in the 18s playing regularly, but then around Christmas I was pretty much thrown into the 21s.
“Bealey came up to me a session or two after Christmas and said this is where he wanted me to be now.
“It obviously helped with Zac Ashworth going out on loan and it’s given me a real pathway into 21s football now. Josh Shaw’s in my position as well. Unfortunately he’s been injured for a lot of this season, but everything’s just fallen into place for me.
“A lot of credit goes down to Bealey and Deon because they trust the scholars to perform. There’s me, Harry, Matt, Akeel, so being in an environment with coaches who give you that trust makes it a brilliant place to be in.
“The sooner we get to grips with how important results and performances could be in our future development, the better because they can prepare us for those crunch times ahead.
“We’re fighting for the play-offs with the 21s and in a Championship environment for example, that would mean everything to the club and the fans more importantly.
“So being in that situation now where we’re challenging, putting in good performances against the best teams in our league is great. Going into the last stage of the season, it’s a period for us to really kick on and do the best we can.
“21s football is the step before the first team, so if you’re performing well there then it may not be long before the senior coaches starting taking a look at you as it’s shown with Jovan and Rico. They’re big inspirations for me because they’ve shown it’s possible.
“Our form at The Hawthorns has been spoken about, but we’re high on confidence going into Monday’s game after the Newcastle result. Norwich are around the promotion places, but we’re quietly confident of getting the job done.
“We’re going to have to play in those stadiums, in front of big crowds if we are to make it as elite performers. So it’s about giving a good account of ourselves and getting the result to prove it.”
How to follow the game
Tickets will be available for Albion’s PL2 clash with Norwich City at The Hawthorns.
Season ticket holders can watch the match for free, while the prices stand at £5 for adults, and juniors just £1 juniors for those looking to buy their tickets from the Halfords Lane Stand on the night.
Alternatively, season ticket holders and members can also enjoy a live stream of the match. Click here and log in with your My Albion account linked to your season ticket or membership.
The stream will begin 10 minutes before kick-off (6.50pm).
If you haven’t yet set up your account click here for instructions.