Doncaster Rovers: Grant McCann lays down challenge to latest crop of youngsters
Grant McCann has challenged the latest group of Academy graduates at Doncaster Rovers to break into the first team on a regular basis over the next few years.
The club last week confirmed that AJ Greaves, Rieves Boocock, Branden Horton and Myron Gibbons have all signed first year professional contracts at the club.
While delighted with the quartet and full of praise for the progress they have made this season, McCann had a simple message for the youngsters - the hard work starts now.
"It's good because we want to try bring some of the young ones through," McCann told the Free Press.
"I'm always about trying to get the young ones in the team as you've seen with Lirak Hasani, Branden Horton and Rieves Boocock all getting minutes this season.
"We want to try and make it where they're not just playing one or two games but they're forcing their way into the squad, on the bench, in the team.
"I think you'll see that over the next couple of years with some of them.
"Some will push on, some will plateau. That's football. But they've got to make sure they're the ones staying in sight.
"They've got everything they need here. The coaching is great, Gary McSheffrey is in there with them now. Cliff [Byrne] is unbelievable with them.
"They got everything they need here and now it's down to them to perform."
Academy chief Tony Cook praised the set up and mindset at Cantley Park, which sees the club's under 18s players interacting with and working alongside the senior squad.
And McCann believes it has helped with the development of youngsters.
"It's a bit unique," he said. "To have them so close to every day.
"We're always calling on two, three, four of them - Branden, AJ, Rieves, Myron, Lirak, are always around the first team squad.
"That's just that age group but then there's the ones about them with Max Watters, Will Longbottom, Cody Prior, Rian McLean, Shane Blaney.
"They're all going to need time and they're not going to just walk into the team.
"They have to be nurtured, coached, trusted in U23 games and first team games. They've got the right staff for that."
McCann has masterminded the formulation of a standalone U23 squad which will fully take shape next season.
And he believes that age group will give young players a strong platform to push for a place in the senior squad.
He said: "I think one of the big things for me when I came in was creating a good U23s group for next season.
"I've had a good look at all the U18s, the first year pros, the second year pros. Most of them are under contract for next year.
"The ones who didn't get a contract will look for other clubs but that is just the way football is.
"It was important to create that where we've got a good 12 or 13 young players next year.
"Danny Amos is out on loan and will come back in.
"These lads need to be pushing the first team players and if we can get a couple of them into the first team over the next year or two then we're doing well."