DOUGIE Freedman has outlined his ambition to bring more home-grown players into the first-team ranks at Wanderers.
On the eve of this afternoon’s game against Crystal Palace – a club at which the Scot helped successfully develop several first-team stars – Freedman spoke about his desire to add up to three youngsters to his starting line-up by the end of the current season.
Academy graduates Josh Vela, Joe Riley, Chris Lester, Zach Clough and Sami Odelusi have been in around Freedman’s squad in the last few weeks, alongside Tom Eaves, who was recruited from Oldham Athletic in 2010.
But while the conveyor belt of talent has started moving more readily in recent years, the Wanderers boss is eager for more first-team ready talent to emerge.
And he is willing to put pressure on the Academy by bringing young players directly into the development squad if those coming through the youth ranks are not making the grade.
“We have talked about the Academy – and I am hearing it is a wonderful Academy. But we haven’t got anyone in the team so it can’t really be that wonderful!” he said.
“I have looked at the Tom Eaves, Josh Velas and Chris Lester. I have a coaching plan that develops players and the younger you are the more you are going to benefit from it.
“Come the end of the season, hopefully, I will have two or three home-grown players in the team and I am looking to get more.
“I am not afraid to put anyone in. If they are good enough I will play them. If they are not then I will recruit younger ones to put in the development squad. That’s the way I think it should be done.”
Freedman recently recruited Slovakian youngster Jan Gregus from Banik Ostrava on a year-long loan, which can later be turned into a permanent deal.
The young midfielder will be integrated into the development squad under new Under-21s boss Jamie Fullarton and schooled in the same style of football that Freedman is looking to bring into the first team.
It follows similar principles that Freedman set in place at Selhurst Park, working with the youth team and reserve team from 2007 before taking on the senior reins at the start of 2011.
During that time, the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Victor Moses, John Bostock, Sean Scannell, Nathan Clyne and Jonathan Williams were brought through to become major financial assets.
That the manager is intending to do the same at the Reebok is certain to be well-received within the Academy ranks – although what may not be welcomed is his criticism of the lack of players that have, up to now, made the grade.
It also comes in the week that David Lee and Tony Kelly’s Under-18s beat Reading to progress into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup to face either Tottenham or West Ham in the last 32.