This past season we haven't had too much to be optimistic about. However, on watching the last game of the season against Birmingham, I think some of our academy players are ready to step up to compete for regular first team football.
Andy Kellett has been hailed as one of Bolton's brightest prospects for a few years now, and has maybe come into the first team setup a bit later than we had been led to expect, but I think he could do very well for us in seasons to come. Primarily a left back, Dougie has deployed him as a left winger - maybe to avoid having to play two junior full backs at the same time. Anyway, he looked very comfortable pushing forward on the ball showing good pace and technical ability.
Oscar Threlkeld started in two consecutive matches and has in two fairly solid displays for the Whites. He's sound enough at the back and this will no doubt improve as he matures, as will his energetic runs up and down the right wing. He's good on the ball and almost troubled Birmingham goalkeeper Randolph with a lobbed cross. I'd be happy enough for him to get 20+ games next season. Whether he's ready yet to make that right back position his own, we're yet to see.
Hayden White was handed his debut at Loftus Road, coming on in the first half for the injured Tim Ream. He did reasonably well considering he was up against such attacking talents as Matt Phillips and Junior Hoillet - two of the best wingers in the league, but if you're going to play in the Championship you should be prepared to step up your game against the best in the League. At only 19 years old, White is another talented right back who could challenge for a first team place in the near future.
Connor Wilkinson was signed from Millwall last Summer, and has featured regularly for the development squad and went out on loan and played for Chester and Torquay. He has also received caps for the Republic of Ireland's U19 squad.
Striker Jamie Thomas has scored several classy goals for the U18's squad this season, a free kick and a well-judged chip stand out for me. At just 17 years old, the young striker looks like another exciting prospect.
Winger Chris Lester spent time on loan at Chester this season and his hard work and talent has found himself featuring on the bench for Bolton this season. As has George Iliev's - both of them were on the bench against Birmingham.
We have a lot of good young talent amongst our ranks, and our Development and U18 squads look promising. However, as we know not everyone manages to fulfil their potential- Danny Ward looked like a future Whites star and was shipped out to Huddersfield, where he's been okay. Injuries have held back Joe Riley from cementing a regular place in our team, and Jay Lynch has been released by the club. However, I am confident that several (hopefully all) of our youth players manage to live up to their potential.
Written by Nicky Crompton
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