Richard Beale | PL2 promotion challenge can only improve us

A photo of U21s boss Richard Beale overseeing first team training

Richard Beale believes seeing his team break into the PL2 promotion places only strengthens belief in the work his staff are doing as Albion’s U21s prepare for their penultimate game against Stoke City on Monday night (ko 7pm).

You have to go back to November 2022 for the last time the Baggies’ young pros lost on their travels, having won four of their last five away games since then.

Beale’s men last suffered defeat against Norwich City at the end of March, but they have bounced back by winning consecutive league games to displace the Canaries in the Premier League 2 Division Two Play-Off places.

One more point from their remaining two matches would confirm their spot in the promotion positions and Albion’s PDP boss is proud of the number of scholars who have risen to the challenge in his team this season, but wants to see their consistency continue at the bet365 Stadium on Monday.

Beale said: “The lads were excellent last Monday.

“We had a really young team out, a slightly different preparation to the game, but as I said to the boys - once you cross over the white line, make sure you’re right and ready.

“We know we’ve got a way of playing and a way of going about what we do. What we’ve tried to work on with the players is being consistent with their game. 

“It’s no use doing it as a one-off if you want a career. But the lads have shown it on a number of occasions this season and I was really pleased they were able to do that again against Sunderland.

“At one stage on the pitch we had four 16 and four 17-year-olds, which is fantastic and really bodes well.

Speedy attacker Fenton Heard has impressed in the U21s during recent weeks

“I can’t remember ever putting a young player in the team and not trusting them. The key is once they’ve got their feet under the table in the 21s, they need to be able to go again and again.

“Arsene Wenger came up with a fantastic quote/stat recently, saying in the elite of the elite between the ages of 16-20, 67 per cent of those within elite academies aren’t playing any senior football by the age of 21.

“He talked about the stamina in the motivation being more important than the intensity of the motivation. What he means by that is between the ages that we’re coaching, can those lads come in every day without the flash cars, big money or people knowing their names, and be consistent.

"We’re starting to develop that mentality and the more who embrace that mentality, the more we can produce for the first team, and the more we can help get a good career in the game.

“It’s really pleasing to have so many young players playing and that’s what we want. We want that pathway and what that means is that the older lads are around the first team - which is everything that we’re about.

 “Of course it’s nice if we win games, but we’re focused on individual development and to get those players pushing on and it’s a great place to be at the moment because you can see that path forwards.

“We’ll approach our remaining two games in exactly the same way we have all season. If that takes us into the Play-Offs and then into the PL2 Division One, then it’d be fantastic.

“It would only improve what we’re about and what we’re doing and we’re excited for that challenge and trying to get there.”

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