Ruth: Trophy performance dispels academy football perception

Our men's under-21s defeated Walsall 3-2 in their opening Southern Group A match of the EFL Trophy on Tuesday.

By Charlie Hanson • 24 August 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Shannon Ruth's team beat Walsall, having come from behind to beat Chelsea in Premier League 2 in their previous outing.

Shannon Ruth believes his team’s win over Walsall in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday was the perfect response to critics of academy football.

A brace from Andrew Moran and an own goal saw Albion win their opening game 3-2 against the Saddlers as Ruth’s team showed their ability to compete physically.

“We’re really aware of the perception of academy football – that you’re good with the ball but when you come up against senior opposition their physicality and game management can get them the result," Ruth said.

“We were conscious that we wanted to control the game with the ball, but also to compete and fight, that we weren’t going to give them anything easily. We fought for everything and I was really pleased with our balance.

“We are really happy with the performance, we had a little bit of everything. We had good control of the game with the ball but we knew their style could cause us some issues without it.


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EFL Trophy Highlights: Walsall 2 Albion 3

“The way the game finished made it a bit more difficult for ourselves – we had the chances to kill the game. The amount of chances wasn't matched by our composure to finish off the moves.”

That physicality will have done our under-21s no harm in potentially securing future loans in the EFL, according to Shannon.

“This is a competition that first team managers and chief scouts look at to judge the players on, it’s a senior competition and will be a good barometer for them to see our young players dealing with the demands of a senior game," he added.

“The fact we dealt with everything they threw at us and that we were the better team is a positive sign.”