Match Previews

Shannon Ruth: We are really proud of our academy pathway

MU21s head coach reflects on Joshua Duffus being named in first-team squad and looks ahead to Arsenal away.

By Matt Bishop • 29 October 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Duffus was named on the bench against Ajax alongside fellow academy graduates, Evan Ferguson, Jack Hinshelwood and Tom McGill.

Shannon Ruth has shared his pride after yet another academy product made the step up to first team football this week – and said he loves sharing good news like that with his players.

18-year-old forward, Joshua Duffus was named among the substitutes for Thursday’s historic win against Ajax, and Ruth was delighted to see the teenager follow in the footsteps of other academy starlets like Jack Hinshelwood and Evan Ferguson. 

“I think Josh thought he was in trouble when we sat him down and said he was in the first team squad!” said Albion’s men’s under-21s head coach. 

“He couldn’t take the smile off his face and it’s certainly a night he’ll never forget. Telling young players they’re making the step up like that is definitely the best part of my job. 

“When you see Jack make his debut at Villa, or Evan score a hat-trick against Newcastle, or Josh being involved against Ajax, it’s extremely rewarding and it’s why we all do what we do.

By Paul Hazlewood
Jack Hinshelwood made his Premier League debut at Villa Park last month.

“We are really proud to say our pathway provides opportunities like the one Josh had this week, and as an academy, we are extremely grateful for the belief Roberto puts in our young players.

“He has shown them that if they’re ready, they will get a chance. That’s such a unique and rare thing.” 

Duffus didn’t get on against Ajax, but he and his under-21 teammates will be raring to go when they face Arsenal in Premier League 2 at Borehamwood today, kick-off 2pm. 

It’s Albion’s first PL2 game in exactly a month and Ruth said the break provided his squad – who are five unbeaten and sixth in the league – with a great opportunity to fine tune a few details before another busy period of fixtures. 

The head coach said, “We used the break well. We made sure the players spent some time back at home with their families, and then improved and tested ourselves on the style we are developing. 

“We are replicating the first team’s style, which is unique and complex, so international breaks like this one are really important.

By Paul Hazlewood
Mark O'Mahony will be hoping to add to his seven goals in six PL2 games today.

“We’ve developed a few things, progressed the style we are passionate about and we’re now ready to compete in four different competitions over the next few weeks. We want to do well in all of them. 

“Each competition will provide a different challenge and new experiences for our players, which is vital at their age, starting at Arsenal. 

“They are extremely well coached and will want to keep the ball like us. It will be tough but we will go toe to toe with them and try our best to get another three points on the board.”