Jamie McCombe admits that Rovers’ injury-ravaged season has hindered the club’s youth development - because they have not been able to go out and gain invaluable loan experience.
Rovers - who announced on Friday that they had released youngsters Chris Whincop, Josh Meade, Jordan Binns and Evan Finnegan - have just endured a difficult campaign as the club suffered relegated on the final day of the season.
Their plight to retain their spot in the Championship was arguably hampered by the side’s several long-term injuries which ultimately proved costly - particularly to their defence.
With the likes of centre-backs McCombe, skipper Rob Jones and Bongani Khumalo just some of those unavailable long-term, alongside others who had picked up injury issues throughout a problematic campaign, manager Paul Dickov was forced to dip into his youth ranks to plug the gaps.
Youngsters such as Liam Wakefield and Luke McCullough were thrown in at the deep end at the heart of Rovers backline as others occupied the bench but failed to feature for the first team.
And defender McCombe admits that the club’s unprecedented injury list has certainly not helped their youth players develop as much as they could have had they gone out on loan and gained vital match experience.
“At some points we were playing young lads in there,” said the 31-year-old who spent all season recovering from a back problem.
“It’s been tough and has probably held back some of the young lads too who might’ve been on loan at a lower club and playing.
“Players like [Liam] Wakefield could’ve been playing and getting games to further their development but we’ve needed the players around.
“They’ve done well when they’ve come in - especially Luke [McCullough] as well. The lads have all done well but it’s been one of those frustrating seasons where we’ve had injuries at key times. Not to make excuses, but we’ve had a bit of bad luck.”
McCombe is one of the remaining 12 players who are currently out-of-contract at Rovers.
The club is due to release its ‘retained list’ on Thursday ahead of the Football League’s Friday deadline.