MILLWALL’S new under-23 boss Kevin Nugent revealed it was the club’s dedication to nurturing young players that attracted him to the role.
Former Charlton caretaker Nugent, 48, was appointed Elite Development Squad manager earlier this month, and began his tenure with a 4-0 win over Huddersfield in the opening league game on Monday.
Nugent, who had a spell in charge at Barnet last season, is relishing the challenge of helping develop players with a view to seeing them break into Neil Harris’ first team.
“I know [academy boss] Scott Fitzgerald, and I just felt I wanted to come into a job at a football club that was stable, where they promote the young players,” former Cardiff and Swansea striker Nugent explained.
“I know the manager here wants to do that – if they’re good enough.
“Neil is a really, really good manager, he has good staff around him, and it’s enjoyable driving into work every day. I’m working with some really good people.
“There’s a certain level of pressure, but it’s a different type of pressure. Everyone wants players to come through.
“With Millwall getting promoted to the Championship the manager has made some very, very good signings. It’s going to be tough for players to get in but my challenge to them is that they have to up their game.
“The Championship is a tough league and with the recruitment this summer theses lads are maybe going to have to bide their time.
“The standards have gone to another level and the young lads have to make sure they match those standards.”
After taking temporary charge last November following Russell Slade’s sacking, Nugent guided Charlton to two wins and a draw, before the appointment of Karl Robinson.
Nugent then had a two-month spell with League Two Barnet when he admits it things “didn’t go as planned”.
He has taken the positives from both experiences, however, and explained why he wasn't interested in pursuing the Charlton job.
“I came in with Russell but he was let go,” Nugent said. “They asked me to take a few games, which I enjoyed, but when the new manager comes in with his own people it’s very difficult to stay on in those circumstances. Russell brought me in and I certainly wasn’t going to be going for the manager’s job at Charlton as I felt that wasn’t the right thing to do.
“Barnet was a really good learning curve and I enjoyed it even if we didn’t get the results. Some of the stuff that they are doing now I helped put in place. I gave three or four debuts to young players, they’ve got a good crop over there.
“It didn’t quite go as planned but it was a learning curve. When you step up to that first-team level it’s all about getting results.”
Results are more difficult to measure with underage sides, but Nugent is working with the senior management team to establish clear objectives for Millwall's young talent.
“You have to develop their mentality to get them into the first team,” Nugent said.
“I work very closely with the Millwall manager and I know what he’ll be looking for in those players. I spoke to the players, and told them quite often the reason some lads don’t get into first teams is because maybe there is a lack of trust. If they get in, are they going to let the team down?
“My role now is to make sure if they get in that side they know their duties and everything they need to do. What I can bring to it as well is I can see it from a manager’s perspective. I’m not a young academy coach who has stepped in.
“We’ll be working very close together, with the manager, Dave Livermore and Adam Barrett in terms of how we can help the players to be the future of Millwall.”
Image: Millwall FC