Express & Star

Tony Pulis wants local boys in his West Brom team

Tony Pulis dreams of putting out an Albion team in the Premier League brimming with local boys from Birmingham and the Black Country.

Tony Pulis. (AMA)

The Baggies boss is impressed with the talent being nurtured in the academy and hopes that, in two years' time, those promising youngsters will be first-team regulars.

Teenagers Sam Field and Rekeem Harper both played in midfield on the opening day of the season, while Jonathan Leko and Kane Wilson were named on the bench.

If Pulis can follow up Gareth Barry's arrival with a few more additions before the window shuts in a fortnight, it may free up some of those youngsters to go out on loan.

The Baggies boss says regular men's football - the kind he can't afford to give them in the Premier League - is crucial for their development.

And his long-term aim is to fill his team with local boys made from the Albion training ground.

"The big thing about the football club is they've kept their young players in academy football for far, far too long," he said. "We've got to try and find four or five players to bring into this club to take it up to a level where we can cope without having the kids around us.

"And then those kids need to go out and play proper football. Rekeem, Sam, all of them, there's a real good group that need to get out and learn.

"Then in a couple of years' time after my watch or maybe even on my watch the Albion supporters will hopefully see half the team as local boys.

"That's what I want, that's my aim, because the talent in the academy is fantastic.

"They've just fallen down on the most important thing and that is throwing the kids into the pool and getting them to swim."

Albion have now started sending some of their second-tier youngsters out on loan.

Defender Kyle Howkins has joined League Two Cambridge United, centre-back Shaun Donnellan will be playing in League One with Walsall, striker Tahvon Campbell has joined Solihull Moors in the National League, and earlier this summer defender Jack Fitzwater joined Forest Green Rovers in League Two.

But the top five youngsters like Field, Harper, Leko, Wilson and Tyler Roberts have been kept back so far.

Albion have already been forced to reject offers to take Field for the season from Championship clubs like Norwich, Derby, Barnsley and Sheffield United.

Barry is expected to take Field's place in the starting line-up at Burnley tomorrow, but Pulis said his arrival alone wasn't enough to let the teenager move out on loan.

"No, we have to bring another couple of players in first," he said. "With the injured players we’ll only have two or three senior players on the bench at Burnley, the rest will be kids.

"We had more youngsters involved than any other club in the Premier League on the opening day of the season.

"Everyone can see it, we have to get players in. We cannot go through another season and take the risk we did last year. Last year we were very fortunate we never picked up injuries. We can’t do that this year."