DONCASTER Rovers’ boss Dean Saunders is getting his reward for placing his faith in the club’s junior policy.
The Welshman declared on his appointment last September that one of his priorities would be bringing young players at the club through to first team level and said he looked forward to a time when the club’s first-team regularly contained a sprinkling of home-grown talent.
He has proved to be a man of his word.
He raised a few eyebrows when handing young left-back James Husband a 30-month contract last year and also handing six of his youth team team-mates a one-year contract at the end of last season.
Husband has made such progress that he recently signed a new deal and is already an established member of the club’s first-team squad.
Centre-back Liam Wakefield and keeper Jonathan Mated and Jake McCormick all showed up well in pre-season games as did striker Jordan Ball, who scored the the only goal of the game after coming on as a late substitute in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over holders Chesterfield in the second round of the JP Trophy at the Keepmoat Stadium.
“He’s got the right attitude, he works hard and he scores goals,” said Saunders. “I’ve got to keep working on other parts of his game but he’ll get better and better and Tuesday’s game will give him some confidence. It was a great run (into the box) if you looked at his movement and a good finish. You either know where the goal is or so you don’t and he took it like like he has been all season for Belper.
“It’s great for all the kids in the club’s Academy that we had both Jordan and James Husband on the pitch and we also had young Harry Middleton on the bench for the last two games. James made his debut in the Championship at 17 last season and it must be a boost for all the lads at the Academy that they know (if they are signed) that they’ll get a chance if they are good enough.”
Despite working long hours trying to turn around the club’s fortunes following relegation, Saunders has found time in his schedule to meet with the coaching staff at the Academy and outline how he wants things done.
Although Rovers kept a second successive clean sheet against the Spireites, Saunders hopes to have a more representative back-four on duty in Saturday’s League One clash at Hartlepool.
Centre-back Shelton Martis (hamstring) and right-back Paul Quinn (hip) missed Tuesday’s game after reporting tight leg muscles but both are expected to be back on duty at Victoria Park.