Tony Pulis talks up West Brom's academy, makes big claim about its quality

Tony Pulis Interview - 23/02/2014

The 58-year-old says the Baggies youth system is the best he has seen at any of the clubs he has managed.

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis has told reporters, as quoted by the Birmingham Mail, that the club's academy is the best youth system he has seen at any club he has been at.

Pulis dipped into the academy's pool of talent to hand 16-year-old Jonathan Leko his Premier League debut as a substitute in the 0-0 draw against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last Saturday.

The 58-year-old then suggested earlier this week that Leko may well not be the only teenager given their chance to make a mark at senior level before the season is out, with Albion all but assured of safety.

The Welsh manager, who has been in charge at Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Stoke City, and Crystal Palace before taking up the reins at the Hawthorns in January 2015, is clearly impressed with what he has seen of the young talent at the Birmingham club.

In fact, when speaking to reporters ahead of his side's trip to Manchester City on Saturday, he claimed that he has never been at a club which has a better youth system than West Brom.

Pulis said, as quoted by the Birmingham Mail: "The academy at this football club is the best I’ve ever seen of all the clubs I’ve been at [but] it needs direction. The players are there, they need to be pushed a little bit differently to what they are at the moment. Given that chance and opportunity you’ll see the players bloom and push on but they’ve certainly got talent.

"Most of the season we’ve had two or three of the young ones coming up and training with us. They’ve got exceptional talent and everyone involved with the academy should be really proud of what they’re doing. The important thing is that next step.

"We tend to lose them for maybe three or four years because they don’t play enough football. These kids need to play football and whether it’s first, second, third division football they need to play football so they get that experience and find out what it’s all about. That’s very important to emphasis to the people at the football club."

Pulis is not a manager who has developed a strong reputation for promoting academy players and building on youth, but Leko's debut is a sign that he sees reason to be excited by the next generation at West Brom.

Given the manager's comments, and the fact that Albion have virtually secured their Premier League survival, it would not be too much of a surprise to see further teenagers turning out for the club over the next few weeks, with youngsters such as Tyler Roberts thought to be knocking on the door of a first-team call-up.

Albion travel to the Etihad Stadium tomorrow looking to pull off a shock first away win since 13 February.

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