MANAGER Dougie Freedman believes Josh Vela can be a regular Wanderers first-team player after being impressed by the young Salfordian in training.

The 19-year-old could make his comeback alongside fellow midfielder Stuart Holden in tonight’s FA Cup third round replay at Sunderland after five months on the Reebok casualty list Vela has started just one game this season and that ended after just seven minutes at Crawley Town in the Capital One Cup when he sustained knee ligament damage. But he has been back in training for several weeks and Freedman has been excited by what he has seen in the youngster.

The Scot said: “I like him and he’s a good young man.

“He has been quite fortunate to be injured at the same time as Stuart in a way to understand what being a professional is all about.

“Josh will admit his upbringing in Salford didn’t really teach him the professionalism you have to have.

“I am now seeing a young man who is very professional and fit as a butcher’s dog.

“He is desperate to be involved and I’m sure he isn’t far away.”

Vela, like other youngsters in the Whites camp, will no doubt be encouraged by Freedman’s track record of blooding youth at former club Crystal Palace.

And the boss wants to continue that trend at the Reebok and keep hold of his blossoming talent rather than cash in on their value.

Freedman added: “I would advise anyone to turn down offers for the young players because they are the future of the club.

“I don’t have a bad record at bringing young players into a team and sticking with them.

“Josh is one I am certainly looking forward to working with.

“He has been training with us for about a month now and has been very impressive.

“His first-team opportunity is not far away.”