PHIL Parkinson has paid tribute to those making the academy conveyor belt keep turning.

Luca Connell and Joe Pritchard have negotiated very different routes to the first team but the Wanderers boss says staff at Lostock deserve a credit in their success.

Both youngsters will be in the squad at Sheffield United tomorrow, hoping to secure the same sort of footing in the senior ranks that Josh Vela, Rob Holding and Zach Clough have managed in recent years.

“A lot of people work tirelessly behind the scenes at this club,” Parkinson said. “Some are part-time scouts, some full-time who get very little recognition, but they all work hard to get us good young players.

“Luca has been with the club since he was eight years old, so it’s great for everyone at the club to see him playing for the first team.

“A lot of people have made a contribution to his development and I have got to mention Nicky Spooner and Gavin McCann in particular because he is a rare one who has come from the youth team and almost missed out the 23s.

“The level Nicky and Gav have the youth team training has enabled him to come in up to speed when he’s trained with us.

“He has missed that step, jumped past the 23s into the first team, so they must take a lot of credit.”

Pritchard spent most of his youth career with Tottenham and signed a professional contract with Bolton last summer after a successful trial.

At 22, Pricthard is at an age where he would expect to be pushing for first team football. But Parkinson explained that after 14 years with Spurs, the versatile midfielder arrived at the club with a point to prove.

“Pritch had his development derailed by a bad injury so he’s a bit of a late developer if you like,” he said. “We signed him in the summer and he deserved his chance with the way he has trained.

“We would have probably played him earlier but we had a problem with the embargo and using him would have counted as another player. It put it on the backburner."

Parkinson also revealed that Wanderers recently turned down an approach from a foreign club to take Pritchard on loan because they felt he was developing the right tools to make an impact at first team level.

“He had an opportunity to go on loan to a Dutch club, which we blocked because we felt he could make a contribution.”