Paul Goodwin’s Rovers verdict: Introducing the next generation

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WHEN Gavin Baldwin revealed Rovers’ new youth strategy to me last month, it prompted a few raised eyebrows and question marks.

The bold plan - to promote five youth team players to the senior squad every year - is admirable in its loyalty to the club’s academy.

But is five a fixed number? Is it putting too much pressure on academy coaches? And is there enough talent coming through to justify such a plan?

Well, a closer examination reveals that the kids are all right at Doncaster Rovers.

And on Wednesday night the club’s current crop of youngsters will get their chance to shine in the Keepmoat Stadium spotlight when they host Morecambe in the FA Youth Cup (7pm).

Since the emergence of Paul Green, Rovers’ youth team has had little to show for its efforts over the last decade.

But times are clearly changing.

The development of James Husband, for one, is a ringing endorsement of the work currently going on at youth level.

And if Baldwin’s proposed new system produces ONE potential first team star of the future on an annual basis, it could be the onset of a very bright future for the club.

Jordan Ball’s sensational introduction to first team life was not just a shot in the arm for a young man making his way in the senior game.

It served as a timely reminder to ALL of the current academy players that Dean Saunders is prepared to give youth its chance.

Ball’s goal will give every youngster at Doncaster hope that they can eventually make the big step up.

Saunders is almost certain to be a keen spectator on Wednesday when the next generation of Rovers stars attempt to catch his eye.

Some of them - like skipper Harry Middleton - already have.

And the suggestion from within the club is that Paul Wilson and Paul Stancliffe’s class of 2012/13 are as good as anything that has gone before them, including last season’s Youth Alliance Cup winning side.

The facts and figures back that up.

Rovers’ table-topping under 18s beat Grimsby 4-0 on Saturday to continue their unbeaten start to the season.

And they are getting results by playing an attractive brand of football too.

Commentating for RoversPlayer, I work closely with club historian Tony Bluff - and there’s not much that Tony does not know about Rovers.

In fact he is a walking A-Z of everyone to have worn the red and white hoops! He also knows a player when he sees one, and can be quite a harsh critic at times too.

But even Tony waxes lyrical about the youngsters on Rovers’ books.

He should know, he’s a regular at Cantley Park as well as the Keepmoat.

With his help, here’s just three of the young lads worth keeping an eye on next week - and over the coming months:


Harry Middleton: The 17-year-old attacking midfielder got a taste of the high life when he was named on the bench against Norwich, Preston and Shrewsbury. Skilful, with an eye for goal, it was just reward for his eye-catching form at youth level.

Evan Finnegan: The young Irish prospect, 17, is not dissimilar to a certain James Husband. He can play at left back but his speed and crossing ability have seen him flourish further forward.

Mitchell Lund: A year younger than most of his teammates, Lund has slotted in at left back and looks composed in that position. The 16-year-old is quick and reads the game well.