After Joe Nuttall’s great start to life in the Rovers first team, we look at who else could make the step up into the starting 11.
Damien Johnson’s U23’s have had a great start to the Premier League 2 season. They sit second behind Middlesbrough, having only lost once this season – to the North-East outfit.
Their latest result was a 6-1 thrashing of Watford U23’s last Friday. Goals from Callum Wright (x2), Lewis Mansell, Jack Doyle, Scott Wharton and Daniel Butterworth gave Rovers a comfortable victory.
This was without their player of the season so far, Joe Nuttall.
So we decided to take a look at some of the young prospects that are in the youth team, especially those who we thought could make the breakthrough in the next few years.
Position: Centre Back
Age: 20 (DOB: 3 October 1997)
Matty Platt is a young, ball-winning centre-half who has been a prominent figure in the youth set-up during his time at the club and spent the second half of last season on-loan at National League side Barrow A.F.C.
Platt has featured for the first team in all three of our Checkatrade Trophy games this season. He played 52 minutes v Stoke U21s, 90 minutes v Bury, and 59 minutes v Rochdale on Tuesday. He looks composed on and off the ball, and if Rovers hit an injury crisis, Platt could be the defender called upon to come into the team.
Rovers have a good array of centre-backs in the U23s, including Joe Grayson – son of former player and ex-Sunderland and PNE manager Simon. Joe has a great left-foot and looks a good prospect.
Position: Right Back
Age: 20 (DOB: 16 October 1997)
The young full-back has been on the verge of breaking into the team for a few months now. Had Rovers not have signed Caddis, I’m sure Travis would’ve played in the league for us this season.
Travis has been on the bench for Rovers a few times this season when Nyambe/Caddis have been unavailable. He’s also played 180 minutes in the Checkatrade Trophy for Rovers, completing the entire match v Stoke City U21’s and Bury.
He can play in any position in a back 4 and has even featured in midfield for the U23’s/Academy over the last couple of years.
Position: Left Back
Age: 20 (DOB: 2 February 1997)
Jack Doyle has also been on the verge of breaking into the team over the last couple of years, but signings like Sam Hart has stopped Doyle properly breaking through.
The full-back first featured on the bench for Paul Lambert’s Rovers away at Nottingham Forest but didn’t come on in a 1-1 draw in April 2016. The same happened when Rovers faced Burton last season, and in the EFL Cup (now known as the Carabao Cup).
Doyle played the entire 90 minutes at home to Stoke U21’s in the Checkatrade, in which he put in a great performance. The young full-back also featured in the Carabao Cup, playing 14 minutes in the 3-1 victory over Coventry at the Ricoh. Doyle even came close to scoring, but a great save by O’Brien in the Coventry goal prevented him.
Position: Centre Midfielder
Age: 19 (DOB: 27 January 1998)
Like both Travis and Doyle, Willem Tomlinson is on the edges of the first team.
In his first full season in the Academy at Brockhall, Tomlinson played a vital part in helping Rovers reach the FA Cup Youth Final. He then went on to cement his place in Damien Johnson’s reserves/Under 23’s.
Tomlinson made his first-team debut in Rovers’ 2-1 loss to Manchester United last season, coming off the bench. The midfielder then made his first start in Rovers’ 1-0 win over Stoke U21’s in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Age: 18 (26 July 1999)
Joe Rankin-Costello (JRC) may only be 18, but has been one of the most mentioned youth players over the last two seasons.
He made just under 40 appearances for both the Under 18’s and Under 21’s, and like Tomlinson, he played a pivotal role in reaching the FA Cup Semi-Finals in the 2015/16 season.
JRC made 20 appearances for Damien Johnson’s development squad last year, playing against some players who were 5 or 6 years older than himself.
Rankin-Costello made his first-team debut in the 1-0 defeat to Bury in the Checkatrade Trophy, coming on for Harry Chapman with 33 minutes to go.
Rovers’ youth academy is full of prospects who could make the first team in the upcoming seasons. The job that Damien Johnson, David Dunn and the entire set-up at Brockhall are doing is a great one, and hopefully, we’ll see a lot more young players coming through.
Mowbray has stated this league is a league for men, not boys, to get the job done – but like Nuttall, their chance will come.
Thanks for reading.