'We aim to be renowned for producing young players'

Albion under-21s face Everton this Sunday.

By Charlie Hanson • 22 January 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Shannon Ruth is proud of the progress the young players at the club are making.

Under-21s head coach Shannon Ruth is proud that so many EFL clubs are willing to take our young players on loan.

This month Ed Turns has joined Leyton Orient, Todd Miller headed to Doncaster Rovers and James Beadle join Crewe Alexandra, all until the end of the season.

They join Haydon Roberts (Derby County), Carl Rushworth (Lincoln City), Jensen Weir (Morecambe) and Marc Leonard (Northampton Town) who are learning their trade in the lower leagues.

“It’s something that we’re proud of,” Ruth said. “An aim for us is to be renowned for producing young players. We want people to look at us as a club that consistently produces players who can play at different levels in this country and also abroad – it shows how far we’ve moved forward.

By Pete Norton
Marc Leonard has impressed with Northampton so far this season.

“The level of the clubs and the opportunities our players get is a real positive step for our academy. A few years ago we were loaning to National League level clubs and now we’re loaning to all levels including the Championship.

“The players that are making those steps are far younger than before. I can’t remember us loaning an 18-year-old goalkeeper to League Two [James Beadle] before.

“The demand on the players is a lot higher which means they’re developing a lot faster. It is all a positive indication of the progress we’re making.”

For those who haven’t made a loan move, there’s still plenty of opportunities at the club. That might mean playing with the under-21s in Premier League 2 or training with the first team.

By Paul Hazlewood
Evan Ferguson has been a starter for Roberto De Zerbi in recent weeks.

“One of our main functions is to help the first team prepare for each game in the Premier League. Since Roberto [De Zerbi] took over as head coach an under-21 has been involved in every first-team training session.

“The transition of players from the under-21s to the first team is frequent and they get constant exposure. [First team coach] Andrew Crofts is that link to the academy. When the players see him in the first-team group there’s that familiarity, as he knows them having coached the under-21s.

“He shows such an interest and passion in the progress of young players, as does Roberto. You can see that with the opportunities he has given to Evan Ferguson and Andrew Moran and Jack Hinshelwood has been on the bench. The pathway there as is the belief at the club in our young players.”

The under-21s are back in action this Sunday when they face Everton at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, kick-off 4pm, in Premier League 2.