STEVE Lomas has revealed he is planning to send some of Millwall's youngsters out on loan this season.
Lomas believes experience in the lower leagues is essential in any player's development – so he will not hesitate in blooding his academy stars in League One, League Two or non-league.
One of the Lions' most promising prospects, midfielder Fred Onyedinma, is only 16 – but Lomas says even he could be ready for senior football, having signed a professional contract last month.
"Fred's a young boy so let's not get ahead of ourselves," Lomas said. "I am a firm believer that we need to get more of our academy boys out playing football in men's leagues.
"When I look at young kids who are 20 or 21 and they don't have a league game under their belt, I just don't think we're doing them any favours. They get to a certain level and they've got to stand on their own two feet.
"Maybe we're a bit guilty of over-protecting kids now; there comes a point where they have to sink or swim. Clubs are always crying about there not being enough good, young talent – but we're not getting them out enough. I'm talking about getting them out to a level where they can thrive.
"Fred is only 16 but I was playing in the Irish League when I was 15. I was out learning the game against senior men. It's a fine balance between making sure they can cope and getting out there and testing themselves against better players. That's where they will learn.
"You coach players and improve their skill sets but you have to let them use their ability in a competitive environment. It's a character test as well."