ADAM Henley believes Blackburn Rovers’ faith in youth will inspire generations of academy starlets to burst onto the first team scene.
Rovers’ 17-year-old full back is one of the latest of the club’s academy graduates to impress in the Premier League this campaign and he is confident there are lots more to come.
Henley has joined the likes of Junior Hoilett, Martin Olsson, Grant Hanley, Jason Lowe and Phil Jones to progress into first team players from the club’s youth ranks over the last couple of years, together with a number of youngsters brought into the club.
With the experienced Ryan Nelsen, Jason Roberts, Chris Samba, Brett Emerton and El-Hadji Diouf all now departed from Ewood Park, Rovers are fighting against relegation with their youngest squad in Premier League history.
Ahead of Tuesday’s crucial visit of Sunderland, Hanley insists this show of faith can only stand the club in good stead for the future.
He said: “It is great inspiration when you are down there and see the young players making the step up into the first team. It makes you think you can do it as well.
“I am sure there are a lot more youngsters who will be pushing for a first team place in seasons to come. The talent is there definitely.
“All credit to the academy system for producing all the young talent that they do and the way it is set up, I am sure there will be lots more to come.”
Henley featured for Rovers’ under 18’s in the early stages of their FA Youth Cup campaign this season but, now with a semi final against bitter rivals Burnley looming, is expecting to have to watch from the periphery.
A bumper Ewood crowd is expected for Thursday’s semi final first leg but, in contention to be involved in Tuesday’s Premier League crunch clash with Sunderland, Henley has his sights set on more first team experience.
“Of course I definitely would love to be involved in that next round,” he said. “I am under orders though so we will have to see what happens.
“Everyone is buzzing about the game and can’t wait to get started. It is not something that comes along very often and it is going to be a great experience and hopefully a big crowd to get the boys going.
“I am still only young but I have got a bit if experience now and I hope I can pass that on to the younger players coming through.
“It has been a roller coaster season for me. It has all settled down a bit more now and am just looking to get back in the team, get some more starts and hopefully kick on from there.”
Henley, born in Tennessee, United States, signed a contract keeping him at the club until 2014 and has recently been involved with the Welsh under 21 squad.
Meanwhile Rovers are set to have almost 5000 travelling fans at next weekend’s crucial clash at Bolton Wanderers.
The club quickly sold out the initial 2,800 lower tier allocation and is now close to selling out the extra upper tier tickets they were allocated.