West Brom getting their young stars out on loan

Academy boss Richard Stevens says Albion have made a big push to get their promising youngsters out on loan this season.

Academy boss Richard Stevens
Academy boss Richard Stevens

The Baggies currently have nine of their rising stars out gaining experience either in the Football League or in non-league.

Alex Palmer, Callum Morton and Jamie Soule are in League One with Lincoln while Rayhaan Tulloch is in the same division at Doncaster.

Josh Griffiths and Finn Azaz are in League Two at Cheltenham along with Owen Windsor, who has recently joined Grimsby, while Saul Shotton and Nick Clayton-Phillips are in the National League with Woking and Solihull Moors respectively.

Stevens is celebrating a year as Albion’s academy boss this week having previously enjoyed 12 years at Coventry.

And he sees getting players out on loan as crucial to their development.

“We had a huge under-23 squad last year and that was a real issue,” Stevens said. “We had about 35 players available for selection.

“That meant some of the talented under-18s couldn’t get football in the under-23s because you have to be fair to people – we had a real challenge getting minutes into the boys last year.

“This year we have purposely taken a few less boys into the programme. Not for any other reason other than pathway.

“And then we made a real conscious effort to get players out on loan quickly.

“The first two to go out were Josh (Griffiths) and Finn (Azaz) at Cheltenham. Now Josh has played eight games now as an 18-year-old boy, which in League Two is incredible. He is now getting real experience in winning football.

“It’s a shame it’s not in front of crowds because that adds another element to it.

“But we were really conscious of getting boys out.

“What happens then, through (loan manager) Paul Terry, Luke (sporting and technical director Luke Dowling), Deon (under-23s boss Deon Burton), and myself, we then have got to find the right moves for them.

“It’s okay everybody wanting them, but we need them to go somewhere – if they do well – that they’ll have a chance to play.

“We had Jamie Soule last year go out on loan to Barrow and he didn’t kick a ball.

“There are still some positives in that – no loan is a bad loan. But there are better loans than others.”

Unfortunately for Morton and Clayton–Phillips, they have had their loans interrupted by injuries.

But Stevens says they will quickly get back up to speed.

“It’s been unfortunate for Callum and Nick who have both go out on loan with the intention of playing,” the academy chief added. “They have both picked up medium-term injuries which is always the perils of that.

“But it’s been really good. It’s the next step because under-23s football doesn’t provide everything they need if they are going to make it into the first team here.”

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