Cobblers boss Keith Curle will not be afraid to keep giving first-team opportunities to the club’s academy players after handing a debut to 17-year-old Scott Pollock at the weekend.
Pollock has made rapid progress since joining Northampton’s academy in the summer, impressing for the youth team this season and gaining experience of senior football while out on loan with St Neots Town.
There’s got to be that pathway for young players and youth players to get into the first-team fold and then when they get there they have got to perform.
He made the bench for Saturday’s trip to Cambridge United, alongside fellow teenagers Jack Newell and Camron McWilliams, but then went one better when replacing the injured Shaun McWilliams late in the first-half as he joined 18-year-old Jay Williams in central midfield.
Town were beaten 3-2 by the U’s as David Amoo scored an injury-time winner, but the defeat will not deter Curle from presenting more chances to the likes of Pollock, Williams and Newell in the future.
He said: “Showing faith in young players and giving them opportunities can have a ripple effect to the youth ranks because they know that even when we’re not directly watching training, we know what they’re doing.
“We’re watching and monitoring their progression and if the need arises and if the opportunities arises, they’ve got to be ready and it can have a massive impact on the young players when they come in and they see the first-team coaching staff are watching training.
“We’re there for a reason and the meetings we have with Kieran (Scarff) and Jon (Brady) are all about the young players, their development and whether or not they’re ready to step up yet.
“If we need them, can we use them? And there are a lot of positives coming back from John and Kieran which gives you that added confidence in the players.
“They’ve stepped up to training and it’s good to have that youthfulness and the willingness for them to learn and take on board information.”
Town’s mounting injury list could be an excuse for Curle to dip into the transfer market this month and add to the loan signings of George Cox and Joe Powell, but he views it as a chance to see what the club’s youngsters are made of.
“There were good players unavailable for selection on Saturday but we’ll get periods like this, not only this season but also next season,” he added.
“Opportunities will arise for some of the younger players and members of the squad that aren’t getting the game-time.
“That’s what we’re trying to do - make sure you are ready to play. Training is about taking on board information and making sure you take your opportunity when it comes.
“We’re trying to put foundations and principles in place throughout the footballing department whereby we have a good understanding of the demands that are required at first-team level so, when they step up, they’re not jumping into a new pond.
“They are able to familiarise themselves with the requirements and what’s required on gameday and I’ve got to say young Scotty Pollock acquitted himself very well, as did Jay Williams.
“It was a disappointing result because of the last-minute but apart from that it’s a good learning curve and it shows there’s no fear from me with identifying talent and then using them.
“It’s about understanding what their skillsets are and trying to mould that within the team framework. There’s been youth players that have been given their debuts and are enjoying their involvement in and around the first-team and we want that to be the case.
“If you’re a young player and you step in and sign for Northampton Town, it’s very important for a football club at this level that there’s a pathway.
“There’s got to be that pathway for young players and youth players to get into the first-team fold and then when they get there they have got to perform.”