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A fantastic stepping stone for the lads

28 July 2016

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Damien Johnson believes Rovers' inclusion in this season's EFL Trophy can only help the young players at the club to progress.

As a Category 1 Academy, Rovers were invited to enter the new-look competition, where they'll face Fleetwood Town, Carlisle United and Oldham Athletic.

The development squad boss feels the experience of playing in the cup matches should hopefully assist the young professionals with the ultimate aim of them becoming first team players.

"It will be terrific, the Under-21 programme has come under a bit of criticism in the past couple of years so I understand where the Premier League are coming from," said Johnson.

"So I think in terms of trying to make it more real for the lads there is no better way than this.

"We've got some great games coming up against some really good clubs in Fleetwood, Oldham and Carlisle, we've two top away games so it is perfect, it will be a great experience and exactly what we want.

"The whole idea for us is to try and prepare them for that final bit, stepping them up into the first team to get the ready for the Championship and the demands of that.

"There is only so much we can do as a lot of the games are at training grounds, and that's not really preparing them for stepping into a Championship game on a Tuesday night.

"So the EFL Trophy now gives us another closer step to replicating what they are going to experience if, and when, they make their debuts. And that is what it is all about, to help them so that when they do get a chance that it isn't that new to them."

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