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Timing is key to developing Oxford United's youngsters: Wilder
EVER since Oxford United formed a development squad for the first time this summer there has been a clamour from supporters to see more of the young players appear for the first-team.
Those in favour may get their wish at Hartlepool United tomorrow, with injury and suspension combining to rule out a host of senior players.
With extra loan signings not an option, Chris Wilder will promote several youngsters to make the trip in their place.
The U’s boss admits there have been times this season when teenagers on the bench could have been given more of a chance, but stressed it was down to a question of balance.
“Timing is massive,” he said.
“Certain players we possibly could have (brought on), but we chose not to because we’ve got to marry up not only the development of those players but also the result.
“I’m ultimately responsible for the result so I have to make sure I get the balance right.
“They have done well and are getting vital experience, when two or three years ago they wouldn’t have been anywhere near our first-team.
“Now the philosophy of the football club is to promote.
“They are getting vital experience whether they are training with us or playing development games.
“But this development squad is in its infancy. It’s not been going for four or five years, so we are ironing out bits and pieces.
“The recruitment will get stronger and the players will get better, but the most important thing is the timing.
“It’s important that the coaching staff get that right.”
Josh Ruffels, Callum O’Dowda and Ryan Williams have all been handed their first-team debuts this season and all are likely to be in the squad tomorrow.
With at least half a dozen teenagers making the trip, there is extra emphasis on the remaining old heads in the camp.
Wilder spoke to the group in training yesterday to highlight the importance of their role.
He said: “We did have a chat with the experienced boys and said ‘you have set the standard all season’.
“The others take their lead off them in training, how you are on the coach and how you go about your business and perform on Saturday.
“When you have lost senior players, those are the boys that have to lead the line, give a bit more and take a bit more responsibility.
“The likes of (Johnny) Mullins, (Michael) Raynes, Tom Newey, David Hunt, Ryan Clarke and Danny Rose I’m sure will relish that.”
With the exception of Dave Kitson, who is only suspended for one game, United are set to be weakened for at least the next fortnight.
Wilder thinks it will be a case of gritting their teeth and weathering a difficult spell before returning to full strength.
He said: “We have to keep grinding away and digging in there. It happens through the season at various times.
“Over the last two or three weeks it’s hit us pretty hard.
“But in adversity we’re looking for players to come through and show all the characteristics we’ve shown all season.”
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