PAUL DICKOV believes Doncaster Rovers are starting to reap the rewards of several years of hard work on the club’s Academy.
Rovers fielded five home-grown youngsters in their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Burton Albion on Tuesday
Paul McKay was handed his senior debut while Liam Mandeville made his first start, alongside fellow Academy graduates Mitchell Lund, Harry Middleton and Billy Whitehouse.
They did not look out of place, and it was a point of pride for Dickov and Rovers, who have been striving to improve Doncaster’s production line of young talent.
“I was delighted with them,” reflected Dickov. “I thought it was great to see five of our own Academy products playing in a first-team game, it’s fantastic for everybody.
“I thought they acquitted themselves really well. There was no lack of effort, determination, a little bit nervous and naive at times, but that’s going to happen.
“Three of them were making their full debuts so nerves were going to kick in.
“This is something I have been wanting to do since I first came in. It’s no secret that there wasn’t enough players who came through our own set-up, and getting a chance in the first team.
“First, you have to coach them and work with them properly. Secondly, you have to make them believe they are not kids any more, get them involved in the first team. Finally, you have to back them, give them confidence and the courage to go out there and play.
“We have got a good crop coming through now. We make sure they train with us every day, on a match-day they are in the team meetings, and that experience is just as important for them.”
Tuesday also saw Paul Keegan given a 45-minute run-out after six months out injured, and he will be included in the squad for tomorrow’s League One trip to Gillingham.
Injured quartet Luke McCullough, Nathan Tyson, Harry Forrester and Rob Jones are all still missing for Saturday.
Gillingham are fourth in League One, and opened the season with a 4-0 thrashing of Sheffield United.
Their good start to the campaign has surprised many, but not Dickov, who hopes to build on last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Fleetwood.
“It’s a long trip, but we want to make it a worthwhile trip,” he said. “The lads are really confidant and bullish at the minute.
“Gillingham were one of my tips to surprise a few people this year.
“We had a good result last week, as in winning the game and back-to-back clean sheets.
“We have played five league games - and if you take the goal out we gave Bury, we have had four clean sheets.
“That always gives you a chance of picking up points, but we want to start winning games as well.”