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The future's bright at Rovers

Head of Academy Stuart Jones believes these are "exciting times" for the club

15 October 2017

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Blackburn Rovers' Head of Academy Stuart Jones believes this is an "exciting time" for the club, with plenty of youngsters being given a chance at first-team level.

Rovers boss Tony Mowbray has given debuts to as many as six players so far this season, and the club's development side have made a fantastic start to the 2017-18 campaign.

Jones - who took up his latest role in the summer - says the academy has created an environment for developing players, and he's beginning to see the benefits.

"It's important to me that I create a culture based around development," he said.

"As an academy, we're ultimately judged on producing players. We've really emphasised to the staff and coaches; ultimately, it's about producing individual players. In a sense, that's been one of the challenges we've had.

"We can see that it's starting to develop; it will take time but it's something that we're really focused on.

"There's a core group of players in the Under-23s that all started around a similar time and who are really pushing each other to develop. They've had great support from Damien and Dunny and they're getting chances now.

"We want them to have a winning mentality because that's what's required in the first team but, in terms of performances, I feel that they've gone from strength to strength.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on them, but there are a lot of exciting prospects in there. They've had opportunities to train with the first team, so it's an exciting time for that group, but there's a lot of hard work ahead."

Asked about how operations at first-team level are affecting his work at the academy, Jones added: "Tony Mowbray has been brilliant with us and we're trying to look at the things he's trying to implement at first-team level.

"It's important that if we're trying to develop players for our first team, they need to understand the expectations and requirements for when they move up. It's something we're really keen to develop at academy level."

Rovers' youth set-up has been granted category one status - the top level available to clubs - something which Jones believes can only serve to benefit the academy in years to come.

"I think it's massively important for the football club," he added. "It's a competitive environment, but being a category one club, we can sell the fact that there's a pathway here for players.

"There are certainly opportunities and we have a history of developing young players. As I mentioned, we're focused on the development of players, and that status has massive benefits in terms of recruitment and development.

"For players who are leaving clubs like Manchester United, for example, they'll want to drop into a category one programme like ours. I think that's where we're a really good catch. They'll get great opportunities here." 

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