Pep Clotet on youth and Blues 'duty'

Odin Bailey, Jude Bellnigham and Geraldo Bajrami
Odin Bailey, Jude Bellingham and Geraldo Bajrami

It's massively important for us because in football - the business side - it is getting very difficult to recruit because there's a lot of competition, it's never easy.

Pep Clotet

Pep Clotet says Blues have a duty to bring through young prospects.

And it a football world that is ever more competitive, it makes sense as well.

One of Clotet's briefs is to ensure that Blues utilise their emerging talents, to supplement the more senior players.

And the recruitment strategy has shifted to incorporate the identification of players like Ivan Sunjic (aged 23), Dan Crowley (aged 22) and Fran Villalba (aged 21), who have an upside and can be developed.

And certainly it's the home-grown Academy products who understandably have created a buzz around Blues so far this season.

Jude Bellingham's impact at just 16 years-of-age has been stunning, whilst Odin Bailey (19) came off the substitutes' bench to score his first senior goal, and the winner, against Middlesbrough.

At Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup four Academy graduates made their debuts - Bellingham beating Trevor Francis' record and becoming Blues youngest ever player - and 12 of the 18 on duty were Academy-produced.

And throughout the age groups in the Academy, there is a push to nurture the next generation and provide opportunities - nine outfield players in the Under-23s opening game at Crystal Palace were teenagers.

"It's massively important for us because in football - the business side - it is getting very difficult to recruit because there's a lot of competition, it's never easy," said Clotet.

"Sometimes the young player, with a full career ahead of them, has that spark, that motivation. If they have the ability and achieve enough, then the chance comes. If they take that chance they become themselves players. We have seen that here.

"It's not only doing a good job when it comes to valuing what the Academy produces, but as well it's a massive piece of business as you have a new player, of your own, with the talent.

"And it takes care of not only what you see them do in a game, but also of the medium-term plan, at any football club really. You are starting to see a trend that all the big clubs in Europe and England as well are focusing more and more on home-grown players.

"I think we do have this talent here. Not only do I have a chance to use it, but it is my duty for them (the players) and the Football Club.

"And I am sure the fans back them, which is very important, because you don't want them to go through good and bad moments to quit. It's important we support our young players."

Blues include an Under-23s or Under-18s player as part of every home matchday squad now so he can gain experience of what it's like and what it takes at the sharp end.

Clotet, who also handed a senior debut to Steve Seddon this season, added: "We have done a good job (handling and developing) Jude. He's very stable in our group, but obviously very mature (anyway).

"We ensure that if anyone makes their debut, he feels part of this team like he's a normal player and slowly, slowly handles all the different things. That's our duty as well.

"Our fans will always be very proud to see one of their own on the pitch and, for me, that's very important."