JAMES Shan believes the Academy pipeline to Albion’s first team is as strong as ever after more exciting progress by the club’s graduates this season.
Shan’s Under-23s logged a mixed bag of results this term as they coped with players moving up to the senior squad or going out on loan as a key part of their development.
But the core task of his post – to push the club’s young players up to first-team levels – saw the Baggies celebrating plenty of success through the efforts of Sam Field, Jonathan Leko, Kane Wilson and Rekeem Harper.
“The main aim and goal is to get players in and around the first team,” said Albion Under-23s coach Shan. “We’ve had massive success with that – with Rekeem, Jonathan, Sam and Kane.
“That’s also been magnified down at the training ground with players training with the first team on a regular basis.
“Max Melbourne, Dara O’Shea and Callum Morton have all been in first-team training recently, so from that point of view, highly successful.
“I don’t think there will be another Premier League club who will have four Academy graduates in the first team every single day.”
Albion participated in this season’s Checkatrade Trophy, which was eventually won by Coventry City in front of almost 75,000 supporters at Wembley in early April.
The Baggies bowed out in the group stages of the competition, but Shan insists the experience the competition provided was “fantastic” for his young squad.
“It’s a great leveller,” he said. “Lots of players who have played regular U23 football and know their next step is a loan. Some of them, maybe a little prematurely, think they can go out on loan so to be exposed to that environment against first-team senior players is great for our players.
“Even having 4-500 more fans to play in front of adds to that excitement – and there was a real first-team mentality to the whole approach, the music before the game, walking off the bus and being exposed to cameras in their faces. So highly successful.
“We lost all three games by the same scoreline, 2-0. But as a young group I don’t think we disgraced ourselves with our performances.
“The first game against Millwall was probably our best performance, we were in the game for 60 minutes, but in all three games I never felt we had enough edge, game intelligence or physical quality to win.
“Yet in terms of the whole experience, fantastic.”