YOU won’t find Keith Hill complaining about turning a team out in the Trophy at Rochdale tonight.

Whereas many managers up and down the EFL regard the competition as an afterthought, or an inconvenience – at least until its final stages – the Bolton boss says he has learned to embrace it.

Although an “elite few” players will be rested tonight to ensure no injuries are picked up before Monday’s televised League One game against Blackpool, Hill is looking forward to offering a few first team opportunities to those who were not involved in last night’s development squad game against Hull City.

A few of the young faces who pushed Bradford City all the way to penalties in the previous group game may be drafted in but the rulebook prohibits wholesale changes.

“I love the competition,” Hill told The Bolton News. “There was a time in my management career when I didn’t particularly like it, but I have used it well to integrate young players, use it as a development tool, a bit like Premier League clubs have used the League Cup’s early rounds.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to reward good, young, hungry talent who need to understand what it is like to feel the pressure of senior professionals. They need to know what winning a football match really means.

“From the league’s perspective I think they have got it nailed on. With the addition of the Premier League Under-23s sides it has become a lucrative competition and I don't have any problem with it at all.

“Over the two games I want to play everyone, excluding the elite few who I don’t want to run into an injury.

“We have to get these players up to speed. They have to be robust.”

Hill is unimpressed by the league structure outside first team level and of the notion that some players aged 18 and beyond are allowed to stagnate at development squad level.

The Bolton boss wants to expose young players to competitive football earlier and sees competitions like the Leasing.Com Trophy as the perfect opportunity.

“I don’t know what purpose Under-23s football, outside the Premier League, actually serves,” he said. “That is my job. My teams have been Under-23s teams with four established players who can lead a group.

“What is the Under-23s league? What are players doing at that age when they haven’t made 10 appearances?

“That should be Bolton’s first team, with four or five senior pros. We have to start looking at that as our future.

“If you are 23 and haven’t played 10 games then you should be playing non-league against men, finding out if they have the characteristics for the game. I have the utmost respect for people who bounce out of the non-league back into the professional game but they have to find themselves. They are not going t o do that aged 22 in an Under-23s team, it doesn’t happen.”

The culture clash currently being experienced by on-loan Stoke City winger Thibaud Verlinden is a case in point.

The exciting Belgian youngster has made a strong start to his Bolton career but has struggled slightly with physical and mental demands which are being placed upon him.

“Players need to be robust,” Hill said. “That’s the problem I have with Thibaud at this moment in time.

“Do I want to keep him on the pitch? One hundred per cent. I am not stupid. But there’s a mentality of players at Under-23s level that they are not robust enough for the demands and I can’t keep him on the pitch for 90 minutes, as much as I’d like to. And that is because of the Under-23s culture.”

Wanderers made waves with a squad dubbed the 'Junior Whites' earlier this season but Hill's intention is to eventually bring players in at a much earlier stage that fans have grown accustomed to in recent years.

“This is a competition for the younger ones – 15, 16, 17, 18 – a door that can be opened, so they can understand that first team demands really are.

“I was making my debut at 17. There was no 23s team. Straight out of school, substitute at 16, Portsmouth in the FA Cup. I was being shown how to be a first team player by Derek Fazackerley, who is the assistant at Oxford, the mentality of the game. It’s too much cotton wool."