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West Brom kids out to get one over on Wolves

They are a group of local lads who have grown up together whilst all sharing the same ambition – to make it at Albion.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 12: Caleb Taylor of West Bromwich Albion at West Bromwich Albion Training Ground on May 12, 2022 in Walsall, England. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 12: Caleb Taylor of West Bromwich Albion at West Bromwich Albion Training Ground on May 12, 2022 in Walsall, England. (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

Tonight, West Brom's under-23s host Wolves' under-23s in the final of the Premier League Cup.

And it's fair to say the young Baggies are desperate to beat their rivals and get their hands on the trophy.

While right-back Ethan Ingram comes from Gloucester and midfielder Quevin Castro is from London, almost every other player that will start for Albion tonight hails from the West Midlands.

In the vast majority of cases, the players have been at the club since they were 10-years-old or earlier.

And skipper Caleb Taylor is hoping that togetherness will be crucial when they face a Wolves side that consists of players from all over the world.

“Most of our age group have been together for a long time," said Taylor who joined the club aged 10.

"Some of them joined when they were six and are still here now which is crazy.

“We’ve all stuck together throughout the whole academy journey and now it’s coming to and end.

“These guys will be my friends for life so winning a trophy with them for this club would be extra special.

"This final is massive for us. It’s the defining moment of our season.

"We’ve worked really hard to get to this point so we really want to win. We really want to have some silverware and we really want to beat Wolves."

For under-23s boss Rich Beale, the 2021/22 campaign will go down as a huge success.

In total, 11 academy players have made their senior debuts this season with Taylor Gardner-Hickman, Tom Fellows, Zac Ashworth, Castro and Taylor the most prominent.

"It's nice to end the season with a cup final but I think the whole campaign has been a huge success," Beale said.

"Our job is to get players in the team and if you put a side together in a 4-3-3 formation we have had 11 debuts in that shape which is amazing really.

"It’s been a rich experience for the boys this year and it can only bode well for them next year.

"Some of those debuts might only be one appearance. But it’s something when you have got 11 debuts.

"And some of those boys, Taylor (Gardner-Hickman) being the poster boy really, he has gone on to play many more games and done really well.

"That is the only way to judge it.

"In terms of winning matches, we have done well in this competition and won a lot of matches which has been great.

"But the real measure of how good the season has been is how many players get into the first-team and hopefully now we can push them on to get more games next year.

"We have got a management team that will play young players – the manager has shown that which is great.

"But the players have got to be good enough.

"We've got a big cup final. and then they need to work really, really, hard over the summer to come back and put themselves in the manager’s eyeline and show they are good enough."

While academy football is prodomently about developing players, Beale says tonight is about winning.

"When you get to a cup final it’s win at all costs," the former Blues coach continued.

"It will mean the world to these players.

"The lads have got to learn to become winners – that is the trade they are going into. It’s really, really, vital.

"But what I will say to the players before the game is give us a performance, the rest is out of your control.

"As long as you work as hard as you can, show sweat and courage – which has been the mantra for this under-23s season – the rest is out of your control.

"If you do those things, though, more often than not it will lead to positive results."

Beale admits tonight's game has an extra edge to it because it's against Wolves.

"It’s nice that it’s Wolves," he continued.

"They have got a really good team and an academy they have invested heavily in. It will be a really good test for us.

"Being a local guy, I know what the rivalry is all about. And we really want to bring that cup home for the fans.

"We have got a number of West Brom fans in the team. Wolves have got a few more from further afield.

"Hopefully, it means more to us and we can lift that trophy."

On the game itself, Beale added: "We have played them twice this season.

"We drew 1-1. And we lost 4-0 so they are very strong. They have got strength in depth, players from all over the world and they have invested heavily.

"They are quick, they are all comfortable on the ball. They are a well-oiled machine. We know it’s going to be a real test. But it’s one which we are approaching with real vigour."

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