WANDERERS continued to lay their summer groundwork yesterday by turning their focus towards the development squad.
David Lee and Phil Parkinson met with a handful of the Whites’ Under-23s to discuss their contract options but the mass clear-out witnessed 12 months ago is unlikely to be repeated.
Last season several players who had been on the cusp of first team level were released, leaving Lee – who had made the step-up from coaching the Under-18s – short on options.
Despite the limitations, Lee managed to mix new signings, first team fringe players and a handful of youth teamers to produce a successful season in which the team narrowly missed out to Hull City for a play-off place in the Professional Development League.
It was confirmed this week Harry Brockbank, Cole Lonsdale, Alex Samizadeh, Jack Earing and Ryan White have all been offered a third year scholarship. And Wanderers will soon appoint a specialist Under-23 scout to work alongside first team chief Tim Breacker.
Parkinson reckons extra investment outside the first team will increase competition and have a positive effect on his own squad.
“David wants to get that area of the squad as strong as possible and we are already looking forward to working with a couple of the lads he has lined-up for pre-season,” he told The Bolton News.
“We have offered five lads a third year and I echo Jimmy’s comment that it’s important to offer the lads that extra time when they are still developing physically to aid their development. It can be crucial.
“We are really pleased with how things have gone so far.”
It is expected a new member of the recruitment team will be confirmed soon to keep their eye on players who may be coming out of contract at Premier League clubs.
“It is a specialised role,” Parkinson said. “And it allows Tim (Breacker) to concentrate on looking for players at first team level.”
With the first team now based on the same Lostock complex as the academy, it has become easier for Parkinson and his staff to monitor the progress of Wanderers’ youngsters and liaise with the coaches.
“I’ve said all along there would be big benefits to that strategy,” he said.
“Me and Steve Parkin do take a keen interest and try to get the younger players involved in first team training. I don’t think there is a better place to judge them.
“But I know Jimmy is looking forward to seeing how this next wave of players does and how each of them handles that little step up.
“We will be keeping a close eye on how it develops.”
Wanderers’ academy finished fourth out of 92 clubs in a recent “productivity” review by the Premier League, suggesting things are moving in the right direction at Lostock.
Ken Anderson has stuck to his plan to keep category two status and has brought in sponsorship which has reduced running costs to around £400,000 a year.
The Whites are still to hear whether they will retain their current level, which will require the installation of an inflatable ‘bubble’ to allow players to train in all-weather.
And Parkinson is happy to see investment continue if it keeps the flow of talent moving through to his first team.
“I think you’d have to say it’s working,” he said. “Looking towards the future the academy is going to be so important for this club, so it’s nice to read those kind of things and see what a good job is being done.
“You only have to look over the last 12 months where Rob Holding and then Zach Clough were sold to raise money at a stage where it was absolutely crucial to the club.
“Someone like Josh Vela has been a key player for us in the first team last season too.”