Ex-West Bromwich Albion midfielder Carlton Palmer has urged Baggies manager Valerien Ismael to make full use of the club’s academy and give opportunities to young players coming through, speaking in an interview with This is Futbol.
These comments come after seeing the West Midlands outfit field no academy graduates in their starting lineup against Middlesbrough in the last match, despite the impressive performance of Taylor Gardner-Hickman against Hull City in the game before that.
The 19-year-old stepped in admirably for the then-suspended Darnell Furlong, who was unavailable to play after picking up a red card against Fulham, and played his part in enduring the Baggies earned a clean sheet against the Tigers.
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That proved to be the key ingredient in picking up all three points against Grant McCann’s men, failing to break the East Yorkshire side down for large parts of the game before finally making the breakthrough via Karlan Grant’s 69th-minute strike.
With the teenager’s stellar performance out on the right, he put himself in contention for another start at the expense of the returning Furlong, but was dropped in favour of the latter against the Teesside outfit and didn’t receive any minutes on the pitch.
He joined fellow youngster Ethan Ingram on the bench for the game against Boro, with 18-year-old defender Caleb Taylor making his way into the matchday squad for the clash against Hull.
Ismael may have given some of his youngsters a chance to impress in the Carabao Cup against Arsenal back in August, but former Albion midfielder Palmer is keen to remind the Frenchman of the young talent he could have at his disposal.
Speaking to This is Futbol, the ex-midfielder said: “What’s the point of having an academy if you’re not going to give these players the opportunity to come through?
“And you never know, you might have a gem.”
Ismael will already know he has a few hidden gems on his hands – but Palmer’s comments are a valuable refresher to those who are currently downbeat about the Baggies after losing further ground on AFC Bournemouth and Fulham in their last match against Boro.
Quevin Castro could prove to be a brilliant signing for the long term after arriving at The Hawthorns in the summer – and he certainly isn’t short of confidence. Another first-team opportunity could only be around the corner considering the club’s lack of orthodox central midfield options, so he is one man to keep an eye on.
Another youngster that fans should be keeping tabs on is goalkeeper Josh Griffiths, who conceded just 37 goals in 44 league games last term at Cheltenham Town, kept a whopping 21 clean sheets in the process and played a huge part in Michael Duff’s side’s promotion to League One.
With this, he earned a loan move to last season’s third-tier play-off finalists Lincoln City and has been an ever-present figure in goal for Michael Appleton’s men. He looks like a superb potential long-term replacement for Sam Johnstone and looks ready to bypass David Button in the pecking order on his return.
And this isn’t forgetting Gardner-Hickman who stepped up to the plate well on his Championship debut, something that will go a long way in reassuring Ismael that the 19-year-old can be an adequate temporary replacement for Furlong when needed.