DOUGIE Freedman has thrown down the gauntlet to his younger players, urging them to prove they can break into his first-team plans next season.
The Wanderers boss has stated he will not be making any extra plans to blood untested players in the final four games, despite having little at stake in the Championship table.
Instead, the Scot has challenged the likes of Georg Iliev, Hayden White and Cian Bolger to raise their game after the summer break and force their way into the reckoning.
“I don’t think it would do the players any good to put them in before they are ready just for the sake of it, just to prove some kind of point,” he told The Bolton News. “I’ve got to be a bigger man than that.
“But pre-season is a big indicator for the younger players. I remember at Palace young Jonny Williams and Nathaniel Clyne came back a lot better from having a little rest and then shot straight into the first team and played.
“Most young players will train with the first team for three or four weeks before going in there, and they will have been identified three or four months before that.
“There are a few young lads who train with us day in, day out, but there’s a big difference between training and being better than one of your colleagues behind you.”
Several youngsters have hung around the periphery of Freedman’s squad this season but it has been a bone of contention with many fans at the lack of first-team exposure they have received.
Freedman believes progress is being made at development squad and youth team level but is frustrated at the lack of youngsters he feels are ready for Championship football.
“If they were good enough I’d have played them from the very beginning,” he said. “Jamie Fullarton has done a great job with the Under-21s and they are playing in a very structured way. I found at Crystal Palace that the way he’s doing things develops young players.
“But he’s only been here a short time to develop them and I think we need to get hold of them a lot younger and get this development right the way through.
“It’s been unfortunate that there are no youngsters I feel are quite ready.
“Josh Vela is playing down at Notts County and I don’t think he’s quite ready for the Championship, regardless of what Josh thinks. Everyone thinks he should be playing.
“There aren’t many more right now. We’ve got a small chance with Iliev, who’s doing well, Hayden White is doing okay and Cian Bolger was right there until he got injured. Andy Robinson has been through an excellent system at Southampton, so he’s not far away at all.
“They are nearly there but not quite knocking on my door just yet.
“And I don’t think it’s fair to the fans if I put in a player, young or old, who’s not ready to play for the football club. They have to be better than what we have already got.”