The eyecatcher on Tuesday evening’s teamsheet was Tom Holmes’ inclusion, as the 17-year-old defender was thrust into the starting XI for a senior team debut against Bolton.
Playing against canny and experienced attackers in the Bolton line-up, the Academy graduate looked the part and kept opportunities limited for the visitors.
Omar Richards, Andy Rimonhota, Sam Smith, Axel Andresson and Danny Loader have all been handed senior team debuts by Jaap Stam this season… Holmes became the 47th player from our Academy to represent our senior team.
“Like we said last season and already this season, if there is any potential in the Under-23s and the Academy, then they will train with the first team,” said the manager. “And if they’re doing very well then they will get their chance to play.
“If the first-team players aren’t bringing what they need at times and others are doing that, then they’ll get the opportunity. You need to be solid, direct and clinical in what you need to bring to the game.
“Tom did that today. He showed great energy, he was very brave in what he did, he can play out as well. He brings a lot with his physicality as well, which is very important.
“When he trains, he’s also playing against very good players from ourselves! He is doing well against them. I know that it’s a bit different over here with the fans and the importance of the game, but Tom is very down to earth and knows what to do.
“He picks thing up very quick, and he has the quality and the character to do well. That’s what you need.
“We want to educate our young players and bring them into the first team. It doesn’t matter if a player is 17 or 25, if the other players aren’t performing and doing what they need to do then a younger guy who is performing in training sessions will get the opportunity to play. These are all big games, but that’s how it is.”
Whether Holmes retains his place for the visit of Leeds this weekend remains to be seen – even after an impressive debut, the gaffer knows it’s important to tread carefully and to not risk overdoing things.
“If a player is does well, do you need to change it?” Jaap continued. “But these youngsters haven’t played a lot of games at this intensity, so sometimes you need to give them a break or a rest, or you need to not play them in too many games in a row in case they get injured – which happened with Omar Richards. That’s a pity.
“So I’m not say he’ll definitely be playing the next game, but he did well today and worked very hard. He brought physique to the game and he can play as well… we need to look towards Saturday to what we can do, and we’ll see how he feels because he needed to work very hard. If his body isn’t recovered for Saturday, we’ll need to make another choice.”