Wigan Athletic’s talented teens have been challenged to prove they belong at first-team level after their Checkatrade adventure ended in midweek.
The youngest side in Latics history – including 15-year-old record-breaker Jensen Weir – were beaten 4-0 by Accrington at the DW, which saw them exit the competition at the group stage.
But Under-18s coach Nick Chadwick, handed the reins for the game by Paul Cook, is more concerned with what happens next – and hopefully more first-team appearances in either the FA Cup or even League One combat.
“These lads are doing so well at Under-18 level that a place on the bench in the first team is the next step for them,” he told the Wigan Post.
“It’s important they know that, and they’ve seen what it’s like on Tuesday night.
“Some of them hadn’t even played at the DW before!
“It’s part of development and hopefully that will stand them in good stead.
“With so many of them playing, it was always going to be a tough challenge against a strong Accrington side.
“But actually, on an individual basis, some of them have done themselves real favours with the way they’ve played.
“The more we can develop that link with the first-team set-up at Euxton, the more they can get in front of the manager, and the faster their development will be.
“It’s great for them to see that pathway and probably, with academy football, it’s something that’s missing at the moment.
“The manager’s been first class since he’s been here, he’s been interested since day one, watching all the games.
“He’s been proactive in giving these youngsters and chance, and he really believes in them. To see us having an ‘end game’ after all that hard work is a great achievement for everyone.”
Meanwhile, Latics’ FA Cup second-round trip to Fylde has been confirmed for Friday, December 1 (7.55pm), live on BBC2.