MILLWALL feel they have their best group of young players in three years – but Neil Harris stressed the club will be “patient” with them.
Billy Mitchell, 18, and George Alexander, 17, made their senior competitive debuts on the last day of last season in the 1-0 defeat at Wigan (above), where Danny McNamara was on the bench.
Alexander was a substitute for the epic 3-2 win over Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and the club tied Jesse Debrah, Isaac Olaofe, Ryan Sandford and McNamara to deals for at least the 2019-20 season.
Harris intends to involve several under-23s in pre-season fixtures, starting at Concord on July 6.
“We’ve got a really exciting group of under-23s,” Harris said. “I’m not saying that they’re all going to appear in the first team this season, but we think we’ve got an array of talent coming through that might take three months, might take a couple of years [to be squad regulars].
“It’s the first group we’ve had in about three years where we’re really excited about them. We know we have to be patient because the demands of Championship football are so high. The level of quality is ridiculously high.
“They know the standards they have to reach but they will certainly be given an opportunity throughout the whole of pre-season to show their qualities.
“We saw George and Billy appear in the first team – but that doesn’t mean they’re first-team players now. They have a long way to go.
“But we’re just trying to show that pathway is there. It was tough to integrate players last year in a struggling side. It’s much easier to do when things are going well and the atmosphere in the stadium is first class and the players are high and buzzing. You can then add the odd youngster into the group.
“So it’s just managing that as well. Certainly over the course of pre-season we’ll be looking at three, four, maybe five if not more boys going to Concord to play, playing a behind-closed-doors game here and then going to Portugal as well.
“Ryan Sandford as a goalkeeper has the opportunity to show his qualities. I’ve spoken publicly about him not being ready for the first team but he’s got a good future. Him training as a first-team goalkeeper, whether it’s a few days or a few weeks, will do him the world of good.”
Image: Millwall FC