HARTLEPOOL United boss Mick Wadsworth hopes to learn more about his crop of emerging starlets during the final weeks of the season, writes Craig Hope.
With Pools on the verge of making their League One status mathematically safe, several of the club’s Academy players could be thrown a chance as the campaign draws to a close.
Wadsworth’s hand, however, could be forced a little earlier than he’d anticipated given injury and suspension problems.
Gary Liddle, red-carded at Swindon last weekend, will miss the next three matches, while Neil Austin (calf) and James Brown (ankle) are definitely out of Saturday’s home clash with Yeovil.
Factor in doubts over Antony Sweeney (ankle) and Andy Monkhouse (hamstring), and the Pools boss could be left with no option but to include a number of the youth-team squad.
Wadsworth (pictured) admits to having been impressed by the likes of midfielders Josh Rowbotham and Jordan Richards, as well as marauding left-back Darren Holden.
Strikers Daniel Johnson and Callum Hassan have netted 21 and 12 goals respectively for the under-18s this term, and there is a clamour among Pools fans to see more of the junior hotshots, especially given the first-team’s well-documented scoring difficulties.
Wadsworth, who will take in tonight’s second-string game against Leeds at Victoria Park (7pm), said: “I want people to do well and to say ‘give me a chance boss’.
“If we are safe and if we are not going to make the play-offs then I want to give people games.
“We have two or three youngsters I would dearly love to give a chance to before the end of the season – people like Josh Rowbotham, Jordan Richards, young Darren, the left-back, and big Callum Hassan.
“Those lads have done OK in the reserves and done well at times and I would like to give them a little taste if at all possible.”
Pools’ squad is set for a mass overhaul this summer and Wadsworth hopes to trim the number of senior professionals to allow for the growth of Academy players.
Wadsworth added: “The problem is that probably our squad is a little bit too big – plants need light to grow and it’s a little bit dark above our young players because there are too many seniors.
“Hopefully next year we will have a smaller, leaner squad which is a little bit more efficient. But I would like it to be a little bit thinner above the juniors so they can see a little bit of light and go for it.”