Albion PL2 boss Richard Beale says he’s been encouraged by the recent standards set by his youngsters, but wants to see them push beyond them when they play Southampton on Monday night (ko 7pm).
The league leaders travel to Keys Park on a six-game unbeaten run, while the young Baggies head into their Premier League 2 clash with the Saints off the back of an impressive 4-2 triumph over Middlesbrough.
A win in Hednesford would see Beale’s men match their counterparts from the south coast for league wins this term (eight) and close in on the top three places in the Division 2 table.
And although the U21s chief was pleased to see his young pros not get affected by being pegged back twice against Boro last time out, he wants them to continue “breaking through glass ceilings” by beating table-toppers Southampton in their next game.
Beale said: “It’s a long hard road (development football) and some of them will have been in the academy around 10 years.
“This is all they know, and we say to them that in our team, you are one step below the first team. But that’s obviously the biggest step and you have to graft every single day, not get frustrated with a lack of opportunities or your perceived development and keep breaking through glass ceilings to be the best you can be.
“It’s often the ones who do things right off the pitch, are the ones that can carry it onto the pitch.
“Caleb Taylor is an example of this and there’s been times where I’ve been to the gym on a Sunday morning, and having played on the Saturday, Caleb was in the corner working hard. No one asked him to do it, but he’s a really good pro and it’s that commitment which will get him, and others like him a good career in the game.
“We want to win every game and development and winning go hand in hand with that. In terms of the league table of course we look at it, but that’s not our driver.
“Performance levels are what we strive for and the lads have shown good levels since we lost to Aston Villa and we’ve got to keep driving up those standards now.
“We’re in a position where we could be in the play-offs come the end of the season, which will mean more games for the boys, but the main thing is about driving them to be the best they can be every single day.
“If that can correspond to a battle at the top of our division, then that can only benefit everyone at the football club and the squad.
“Southampton won 8-1 not too long ago, so they’ve evidently got goals in their team and they’ve had Premier League backing down there for a long, long time now.
“They can afford to cherry pick some of the best young talent for their academy and they’ve got a number of good players, but so have we.
"It’ll be a really tough game, but we’ll be going out there to win the game, we won’t be taking a backwards step and we’ll be pushing the lads to put in a really good performance on the night.”
*Tonight's PL2 game will not be streamed tonight owing to technical difficulties. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.*