Gary Caldwell admits he’d have no qualms whatsoever about throwing young Luke Burke in at the deep end when Wigan Athletic kick off their Championship campaign this weekend.
Burke has been the surprise package in Wigan’s patchy pre-season, taking advantage of injuries and staking a claim to the right-wing back berth.
With a question mark continuing to linger around the fitness of Donervon Daniels, the only other recognised right-sided defender in the squad, Burke is in line for a dramatic debut at Ashton Gate on Saturday.
And boss Caldwell says he wouldn’t think twice about pitching in the 18-year-old for his debut if the situation arose.
“I thought Luke was excellent again at Fleetwood,” Caldwell told the Evening Post.
“He’s shown that if you come into the team and do well then you stay in there – no matter what age you are.
“He’s been fantastic all pre-season, and we hope he can keep up these standards that he’s set so far.”
When asked directly about whether he’d be prepared to give Burke – Wigan’s Academy Player of the Year last term – a dramatic debut on the opening day, Caldwell replied: “I wouldn’t have any problem with that – not at all.
“The way he’s played, he’s shown a great composure and a great maturity.
“He’s aggressive, as you saw at Fleetwood towards the end, he’s not afraid to go into tackles so, no, I wouldn’t be afraid at all to put him in.”
Burke has taken full advantage of Daniels being sidelined with a knee injury to put down a marker for the future.
Daniels has returned to light training but, having hardly featured in pre-season, it would be something of a risk to field him this weekend.
Also fighting his way back to full fitness is Emyr Huws, who has missed the last three warm-up matches after rolling his ankle in training.
“Emyr’s been doing some light work with the fitness coaches,” reported Caldwell.
Another cause for concern is Nick Powell, who sat out the trip to Fleetwood after only lasting 45 minutes at Oldham last Tuesday.
“Nick felt his groin at Oldham,” revealed Caldwell.
“He tried to train on Thursday, but we just thought there was no point risking him on Friday. Hopefully he’ll be okay for training this week.”
Caldwell also revealed Jason Pearce, who continues to be linked with a move to Charlton, has been ‘doing some work with the fitness coaches’ after suffering a knock, which explains his recent absence.