Tony Pulis explains rationale behind Jonathan Leko's first start, makes scathing claim about under-21s football

Tony Pulis Interview - 23/02/2014

The West Bromwich Albion manager believes that youth football does not adequately prepare youngsters for life in the first team.

He may have handed 17-year-old prodigy Jonathan Leko a first Premier League start at the weekend, but West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis has claimed that youth football does not adequately prepare young players for what they will face in the first team, as quoted by the Birmingham Mail.

Leko became the first player born in 1999 to feature in the top flight when he was given his debut as a substitute last month and he was named in the starting XI for the first time for the home defeat to West Ham United on Saturday.

Pulis has hinted that he could look to blood other promising Baggies youngsters before the end of the season with Albion having long been effectively assured of their place in the top flight for next year.

The Welsh boss has now further explained his rationale behind promoting Leko, explaining that he feels giving teenagers senior game time at an early stage is beneficial for their development in a way that Under-21s football can never be.

Pulis said, as quoted by the Birmingham Mail: "Jon’s done fantastic and it was really pleasing. The crowd got behind him. It gave everybody a lift. He’s got raw talent. His understanding of the game is not brilliant but that will come.

"These kids have got to be given an opportunity and a chance earlier than what they’ve been given in the past. I’m not just saying this, there’s a lot of talent in the academy. The problem that you’ve got is that this talent has to be driven and pushed.

"Every sport that you look at people are pushed or players are pushed to the limits and keep getting pushed to the limits and then you find your level. In football they go and play under-21s football and for me it’s not anywhere near a game of football in the league or in the Premier League and it just doesn’t prepare them well."

Albion's 3-0 defeat to West Ham at the Hawthorns this weekend left them in 14th place on 41 points with two matches remaining.

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