When Valerien Ismael took over as the new West Bromwich Albion manager this summer, the Frenchman arrived with a reputation of playing a direct and attacking brand of football, as well as being a coach who is more than willing to fast-track a club’s most promising youth players into his first-team squad.
However, so far this season, the youngest player to have featured for West Brom in the Championship is 20-year-old Rayhaan Tulloch, with the centre-forward coming on with just one minute remaining in the Baggies’ 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers back in August.
Indeed, while the likes of Caleb Taylor, Ethan Ingram, Tom Fellows and Taylor Gardner-Hickman have all made an appearance in the 46-year-old manager’s matchday squads, none of the teenagers have been awarded any game time in the league as yet.
This is a subject that Ismael addressed in a recent interview with the Express & Star, with the Frenchman stating his belief that the time has to be right for the youngsters to make the breakthrough into first-team football.
He said: “They’re always close to being involved. You see the results with the U23s since I came here. From the first day they’ve changed their way, they play the same system and they’ve won a lot of games with brilliant performances. Southampton 6-0, Norwich 5-2.
“It shows you already that everything is going in in the right direction – with the first team and the 23s. The main reason now is that a lot of the young players train with us, and they follow our principles. When they play with the 23s, it’s good to see those principles.
“We know that in some positions, if we need to, we can give chances to the younger lads. But they need to wait until the right time, and when it comes I’m sure we’ll have joy with the young players.”
Indeed, while it may be understandable that Ismael has not opted to field some of his younger talents ahead of established first-team regulars while his side are fighting for promotion towards the top of the Championship table, injuries to centre-back duo Matt Clarke and Dara O’Shea earlier this season presented the 46-year-old with the perfect opportunity to afford one of the club’s most promising academy products, Caleb Taylor, with some first-team minutes.
However, rather than doing so, Ismael instead opted to field firstly Cedric Kipre in his back three, before moving left-back Conor Townend into a central defensive position, all while Taylor sat watching on from the bench.
And, should the manager indeed wish to develop the 18-year-old centre-back who Peter Gilbert dubbed a “vocal” player as efficiently as possible, it would seem highly advisable for the Frenchman to unleash the youngster sooner rather than later, or else he may begin to feel somewhat left behind by the West Brom manager.
Indeed, with Albion’s own website describing Taylor as a “colossus at the heart of defence”, it would certainly appear as if the general consensus about the 18-year-old is that the he possesses the potential to save the club millions of pounds in transfer fees over the coming years, all he needs is an opportunity to make his mark.