The last time I remember watching the reserves, I was still in full time education and Phil Neale was in the Bolton side. I’d gone because a) it was Bolton, b) I fancied seeing what the view was like from the Phoenix Stand and c) I’d heard plenty of good things about a 15 year old by the name of Barry Edwardson who had broken into the reserve team. I remember little about the game other than coming away thinking that the youngster had done alright against the experience of Neale and that we might just have one for the future.
In those days (and this may be a trick of an aging memory) the reserve team would be made up of first teamers who weren’t getting a game on a Saturday, players coming back from injury and the odd kid who would be fancied to break through. It could be something to do with the size of the squad, the club’s speedy growth or a change in football’s culture, but whatever the reason, things seen very different.
The line ups for last night’s reserve game against Liverpool were a trainspotter-fest of unknowns. There was a vague recognition of two of the Liverpool lads but no-one that is close to a regular first team berth.
If the Latics team seemed a little more familiar then it was only because of articles and reports on the official site. I might have picked up on the names, but that didn’t mean I knew which of them was which.
Of course there were more familiar faces. Not least the assuring presence of Pollitt between the sticks and the welcome site of a returning Ryan Taylor albeit in an unfamiliar holding midfield role.
If you add ‘missed out on pre-season’ Salomon Olembe to that pair, the first team chances of the rest of them are unclear. Bouaouzan and Cywka may have been brought into the club but would be far from the forefront of most people’s thoughts on a Saturday.
Given this performance, that’s not going to change any time soon. It was clear that the kids are being brought up on the right sort of football, trying to keep the ball down and pass their way into good positions, but in comparison the Liverpool kids were quicker, sharper and stronger.
What the Latics team were managing in two or three touches, the scousers were doing in one. Where Latics consistently ran into a brick wall of defence, the opposition were finding the space for shots and crosses.
I’ll not make a judgement whether any of our lot will ever make it, there were certainly a couple who showed some potential (with an honourable mention for Lewis Montrose in particular), but there’s definitely no Leighton Baines amongst these lot at the moment.
It all left me wondering whether it was all a bit too soon for some of these lads and whether the game could have been put to better use.
With our current injury list and the evidence of Saturday’s game in hand, there are a few of the squad in need of some fine tuning. Bent and Aghahowa could do with some sharpening up, as could Skoko and Cotterill. Surely Boyce could have done with a bit of fitness building game time. I never thought I’d say this, but why wasn’t Hall on the pitch?
Surely there are more benefits in rolling out the more senior fringe players and filling the gaps with kids than there are doing it the other way around? If only to get those youngsters playing with a better set of colleagues on a regular basis.
Then again, I don’t run a football team and I know nowt on that score. Going off some of the sides that the reserves have played this season everyone is at the same game, at least at this level. It just makes you wonder how, at clubs like Latics, who don’t do squad rotation or play umpteen extra games a season, the back up players would ever be really ready to step into the breach.
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