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Development Squad

Damien looking at the bigger picture

Development Squad supremo believes his team are learning all the time in the new league

1 September 2018

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Despite defeat to Everton on Friday night in Premier League 2, Damien Johnson says his side will learn a great deal from the challenges in stepping up a division.

Johnson's young group earned promotion to the top table in Premier League 2 having won the title in the second tier of the competition at the end of last term.

It's been a tricky start, with the latest defeat coming against the Toffees, who ran out 3-0 winners and with it went top of the table.

But despite the defeat, Johnson believes it's been a real learning curve following the opening quartet of games in the division so far.

“We're disappointed to lose the game as it isn't something we're used to, but if we're being honest, we knew these challenges would come our way," the Under-23s boss said after the game.

“We've stepped up a level and this is their first real season in the Under-23s - people like Hayden Carter, John Buckley, Jack Vale. It's a step up even more so for those lads, who last season were playing for the Under-18s. It's a really young group of lads.

“Everton have a different approach to us. They are aggressive in their recruitment, even at this level. I'm not focussed on the result.

"My job and remit is different to the first team manager's. We all enjoy winning games – and hopefully we'll get back to that – but it's important that these lads get through these periods and learn.

“We have a good group who I think have learnt more in the last four or five games than they did in the 20-game unbeaten run last season. There's lot of things that we can learn from but we have to look at the bigger picture. Let's not get too down, let's work through it and get better every game.

“Last week we played against Leicester who had a £20m centre back and a Polish international in midfielder, against Everton we played against players who have played in their first team. These are great experiences and our lads will only benefit taking on these sort of players."

Johnson's plans would have been disrupted somewhat following the departures of Sam Hart and Lewis Hardcastle for loans to Rochdale and Port Vale respectively.

But the Development Squad chief says those switches will be a huge benefit to the young duo, who will be with the League One and League Two clubs for the remainder of this campaign.

“From the squad last season, people like Joe Nuttall and Lewis Travis have stepped up, as has Andy Fisher to an extent, who's part of the first team squad," Johnson added.

"Matty Platt has gone out to Accrington, Sam Hart has gone out and now Lewis Hardcastle will be at Port Vale. That's the next step for these young players and that's what we want.

“Some are now ready after a season or two at this level. It's all part of their development and the process to experience EFL football and we hope that will do them the world of good.

"It also gives the young lads coming into the Development Squad a chance to step up with Under-23s football.”

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