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Development Squad

The pathway is there for the youngsters

Six youngsters all extended their Ewood Park stay earlier this month, and Mike Sheron has high hopes for all of them

28 June 2020

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Under-18s chief Mike Sheron hopes to see some stars of the future after a number of his youngsters penned contracts earlier this month.

Goalkeeper Jordan Eastham has signed a contract through to June 2022, whilst striker Sam Burns, defender Dan Pike and midfielders Jalil Saadi and Sam Durrant have recently all put pen-to-paper on one-year pro deals.

The versatile James Connolly, who missed much of the 2019-20 season due to injury, has also extended his scholarship by a further year.

Sheron, who has worked closely with the youngsters across his five seasons with the club, is eager to see the prospects follow the footsteps of a number of others who have gone from the Academy right up to the first team.

“The pathway is there for the lads right the way through to the first team," he admitted when discussing his hopes for the starlets.

“You look at the squad and you see the likes of Ryan [Nyambe], Joe [Rankin-Costello], Darragh [Lenihan], Trav [Lewis Travis], who have all spent time in the Academy.

“There’s that hope and belief that if you’re training and performing, the opportunities will be there.

“They’ve had to galvanise each other along the way as well, which is also good for the development."

It's been a difficult season for Connolly, with the utility man suffering an injury-hit campaign with the Under-18s.

The talented teenager hasn't featured since limping off early in the 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion back in October 2019, but Sheron's backing the 18-year-old to return in style.

“For James in particular, it was a really tough year with injuries," Sheron said.

“I remember just before Christmas time that James had a really good partnership alongside Enzo at the back.

“James is a real leader, a good communicator, has a good range of passing, understands the game and love heading the ball. Picking up the injury soon after was really galling for him.

“I imagine that James will be there or there abouts whenever we get back for pre-season. I don’t imagine he’ll be starting the season, but the main thing for him is to get back training full time.

“He’s had hiccups along the way and that a big part of his learning, he’s a big character as well, so I’m sure he’ll come back better.”

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