Young guns, having some fun

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I don’t know whether it’s a busy lifestyle or my advancing years but the passage of time seems to be increasing at a rate of knots both in a personal sense and a sporting one.

Nowhere is this more evident than watching the emergence of young Jordan Flores as a real talent in the Wigan Athletic first team. It doesn’t seem like two minutes ago I was playing football with his dad (a very handy player himself) and 5 year old Jordan was stood watching.

I’m sure that plenty of people reading know the Flores’ family as they are simply one of the biggest Latics families around. We got excited a couple of years’ back when he started to emerge in the youth team but it still felt a long way off as to whether he would make it. And I think that whereas there’s a long way to go yet for this young Wiganer, make no mistake that Saturday was the culmination of years of hard work and determination.

Football is so competitive at every professional level that young players simply do not get the chance. I was listening to some of the commentary of Man City this week and they were getting excited about the fact that they had brought three development players off the bench.

Firstly, they were already 4-0 up. Secondly, it was the League Cup. Oh, and thirdly, one of them, Patrick Roberts, was signed from Fulham. For ELEVEN MILLION POUNDS!!!

Clearly, the Premier League has created its own demons where youth development is concerned and Wigan Athletic were as guilty as the next club during our time at the top table. Which is why it’s all the more pleasing to see that it is now being addressed with Gary Caldwell giving our own youngsters the chance.

One of the first things Caldwell did upon taking over from Mackay was to send teenage loan players back to Norwich and Liverpool and bring Chow, Flores and Robles into the fold.

The short-termism of the last few years appears to have been thrown out of the window, which can only be a good thing given the disastrous way things have unfolded. There is now a strong blend of young players coming through, along with those brought in and a few more experienced heads which seems to be making for a very exciting mix right now.

Of course, we are still loaning young players in from other clubs as well simply because the squad is still so thin overall and you can’t suddenly throw a whole youth team into the first team. I’m not quite sure what Murray and Coulthirst bring to the table yet but hopefully along with Junior (when fit again) we get the chance to take a good look at them and if they perform they can become a part of the club’s long-term future.

It’s a model which has served clubs like Brentford and MK Dons (sorry) very well in this division in the past and whereas once teams like that might have admired us, now it’s our turn to emulate them if we want to get out of this league. With youth comes optimism!

Article first published in the Wigan Evening Post’s 12th Man column Friday 25th September 2015

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