Ruth: Night in Athens a terrific achievement for academy

A total of nine players who have played for our academy teams were in the matchday squad on Thursday night.

By Richie Mills • 03 December 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Jack Hinshelwood celebrates Albion securing a 1-0 win at AEK Athens on Thursday night.

Under-21 boss Shannon Ruth says this week was one to celebrate for the academy despite losing 3-0 to Fulham in Premier League 2.

On Thursday, academy products Evan Ferguson and Jack Hinshelwood started in Albion's 1-0 Europa League win over AEK Athens, Josh Duffus came off the bench for his firs team debut, and fellow under-21s Ben Jackson, Samy Chouchane, Leigh Kavanagh, and Jack Hinchy were part of the matchday squad.

On the same night, our under-18s reached the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup after thrashing Harrogate Town 4-1. So despite the disappointment of the defeat to the Cottagers on Friday night, Ruth still had reason to be cheerful.

"We are super delighted for them. It was a really positive night for the academy on Thursday with the five under-21s on the bench for the Europa League game, Jack Hinshelwood and Evan Ferguson starting, and then the 4-1 win in the FA Youth Cup away to Harrogate," he said.


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Pitchside: Greek Gods

"So there were lots of young players involved in very different occasions but it was a big night of football for everyone. I am really pleased the young players in Athens got to experience that historic night for the club, and I am sure they won't forget it.

"Then for Josh [Duffus] to come off the bench and make his debut is a special moment for him. I am delighted for him and we managed to get 60 minutes out of him against Fulham, I thought he was energetic and I think on another night he may have had more chances.

"Certainly, I am delighted for any player that gets to be involved in the first-team matchday squads and at the moment the under-21s are required so that's positive news for them - the opportunity for them is round the corner, they just need to be ready."

However, Ruth was far from happy with how Fulham took apart his under-21 team at Motspur Park.

By Paul Hazlewood
Josh Duffus came on as a late substitute in Athens for his senior debut.

"I am disappointed. It's been a big week for the players and the academy. FA Youth Cup on Thursday night and then the players involved in the Europa League, we are in the middle of a jampacked fixture list, so it was a big ask for the players today (Friday)," he said.

"I didn't think we lost through a lack of effort, I just didn't think we were quite at the races and were a yard off it. Whenever you play a Fulham team you always get a hard-working and honest group that brings good physicality and speed.

"The combinations of all those things meant we weren't in the best place to compete all over the pitch and in some areas they hurt us."

The under-21s return to action on Tuesday away to League Two side MK Dons in the last-32 of the EFL Trophy.