Zac Ashworth is pushing Albion’s youngsters to produce a much-improved showing when they host Middlesbrough in the Premier League Cup on Monday afternoon (ko 2pm).
Recent performances in the competition have severely dented the young Baggies’ hopes of holding onto their crown following their trophy-winning success last term.
Richard Beale’s men have suffered three straight defeats in the tournament against Huddersfield Town, Watford and their next opponents, Boro, leaving them reliant on other teams’ results if they’re to qualify for the knockout stages again.
Defender Ashworth has benefitted his overall development this term by experiencing both 21s and senior football in B71. And the 19-year-old is determined to put in a high-level performance when he leads Albion’s youngsters out at The Hawthorns, and says playing at the club’s first-team stadium is a pressure they must “relish”.
He said: “Bealey always says it’s all about development rather than results, but that’s no excuse for recent results because we haven’t been good enough.
“It’s been a difficult few weeks for us as a team. Some of the younger lads have stepped up which is always good to see, and there’s lots of boys at different stages playing in the 21s at the moment.
“Things happen at different times for different people, but I’m looking forward to gaining some senior experience going forward now so I can push on towards that first team level again.
“Caleb [Taylor] is my best mate and he’s doing really well out at Cheltenham, and Dara [O’Shea] was in my position a few years ago but look where he is now. So I’m looking to keep showing people what I can do.
“I’ve been training with the first team for a year or so, and minutes are the most important thing. I’ve played five games here already and I feel I can play at that level, but you need that experience to be trusted playing week in week out.
“Young players are sometimes seen as an unknown quantity, but it’s up to me and the other boys to show we’re good enough to earn that trust.
“A lot of people have gone in different directions, but we’ve got some really good players from the 18s who’ve stepped up like Akeel, Kevin, Harry.
“They’re at the start of their 21s journey and me, Ethan and Jovan are at the other end. So it’s important we help them adapt to the level and that’ll benefit them and the club going forward hopefully.
“Whenever you play at The Hawthorns it's a good occasion. There’s always eyes on you, whether that’s from the manager, scouts and Bealey and Deon too. The manager’s always keen to know how we’re all doing and we know when we play at the stadium, there’s a pressure to perform.
“That’s something we’ve got to relish and thrive under and if you can’t play at stadiums now, then you’re never going to be able to. So it’s about building that stadium experience, playing well, and it’s another game we need to try and win.”