Young guns take on County

WHILE Steve McCall will be tearing his hair out, Bryan Klug can look at tonight's first team with a contented air of pride.Eight of the squad to face Notts County in the Carling Cup have come through Klug's academy, seven of them are still teenagers and two are not legally old enough to buy a pint of the sponsor's lager.

WHILE Steve McCall will be tearing his hair out, Bryan Klug can look at tonight's first team with a contented air of pride.

Eight of the squad to face Notts County in the Carling Cup have come through Klug's academy, seven of them are still teenagers and two are not legally old enough to buy a pint of the sponsor's lager.

With Charlton not allowing loanee Chris Bart-Williams to be cup-tied and injuries to Drissa Dallo and Darren Bent, Blues boss Joe Royle has turned to his young pups to do battle at Meadow Lane.

Which leaves reserve-team boss Steve McCall struggling to field a team against Wimbledon reserves tomorrow, forcing him to delve deeper into the academy.


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As expected Dean Bowditch and Ian Westlake will gets starts as they replace Bent and Bart-Williams respectively. Sam Morrow, Gerard Nash and Matt Bloomfield are all included in the squad.

But that doesn't mean Royle is not taking the competition seriously. He said: "Far from it. We are desperate to go on in this competition and after winning two in a row we don't want to be losing now. We don't want to be giant-killed.

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"We know a bit about them and they have improved recently."

A Clacton lad and proud of it, Westlake is a former international water polo player, who made his first start against West Ham recently. Up until now he has usually been used wide left but prefers playing a central midfield role where he will be employed tonight.

Bowditch made his league debut against Norwich City last season and has gone on to make 10 substitute appearances since and scored the extra-time goal which beat Kidderminster Harriers in the last round.

The striker, whose family live near Braintree, is still just 17, but has been with the club since he was 10. The Blues had to fight off approaches from Manchester United, who were so keen to get him they argued that flying him from Stansted constituted being within the regulated 90 minutes travel from home.

Matt Bloomfield answers to the name Lucky, after a string of serious injuries, which might have been too much for lesser players.

He was on the cusp of breaking into the first team towards the end of last season but a knee injury thwarted his ambition at that time.

A hard-working, energetic midfielder in the mould of Matt Holland, Bloomfield played for the England under-19s in their victory over Germany at Portman Road.

Gerard Nash is another who suffered an injury set-back but has come on in leaps and bounds, especially with some wonderful performances in pre-season. The Republic of Ireland young international is a reserves regular alongside equally impressive Aidan Collins who is coming back after tonsillitis.

Sam Morrow hit two goals against Sweden recently for Northern Ireland under-19s and is another who has stepped up to the reserves.

Lewis Price was a relative latecomer to the youth system after a spell at Southampton and is now Kelvin Davis' regular deputy.

Matt Richards can hardly be looked upon as a youngster. After making his debut last year in the UEFA Cup, the former England schools rugby union player is now regular first-team starter, although may lose the left-back berth once Chris Makin becomes fit again.

Richard Naylor makes up the eight. He is also the club's longest serving player after making his debut almost seven years ago.

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