A lack of real first-team opportunities handed out to academy products by the manager?
Apart from the odd sub appearance and forgetting the likes of Davies, who’s been established for a while now, how often do young players really get a shot here? I suppose Earl got a fair crack in 2017 (?) but you got the feeling that arose more out of need than his impressing the manager, regardless of how well he did.
Some of them simply won’t be good enough and you might get one slipping through the net (remains to be seen whether Dolan will be that one) but we’ll never know how good the likes of Walker could become unless they’re given a chance. Periods when we’re going through a slump, after the manager has rotated his squad, possibly represent an opportunity to play the youngsters. If not then (and apart from cup ties against lower-ranked teams), I really don’t know when you would. Maybe Neil just doesn’t have any faith in them.
It is quite disappointing when you see some of the talent that comes through at other Championship clubs (albeit a lot of these teams will have academies and youth structures that dwarf our own to be honest). Maybe we just have to accept that it’s a tough proposition for a club of our size to build a youth setup that regularly churns out Championship-standard players given who we’re competing against.
In fairness to Neil, the safe option in 2017 when Cunningham got injured would've been to use Tommy Spurr at left back as a stop gap. The club had also signed O'Connor just before he came in, but he put his faith in Earl.
At times, Simon Grayson put Brownhill and Browne into our midfield ahead of more experienced options.
I think our previous couple of managers have been open to using our youngsters, but only if they're good enough. And the problem is that there is no bridge between the U18s and the first team. So you have to be showing sign as early as 17 or 18 that you might be able to play in the Championship soon, or else you won't be kept on.
Personally I think it's more down to the structure of the club (no U23 set-up) than our current or previous manager not wanting to bring through youth. Worth saying it's also hard for managers when they're expected to push for the top 6 to throw in young lads ahead of proven quality players.