Whilst Lead Professional Development Phase Coach Ciaran Toner is delighted that Rotherham United’s Academy remain unbeaten in the EFL Youth Alliance, he is more excited by the fact that he knows the players in the system are closely monitored by the first-team staff as they look to break through the Millers’ ranks.
Manager Paul Warne has entrusted the likes of Ben Wiles with responsibility within the senior setup, and he has also tied down more Academy graduates down to professional deals, with Jake Cooper making his debut during the Leasing.Com Trophy fixture versus Manchester United U21s earlier this season.
Toner, who oversees the progression of the club’s next generation, was quick to reiterate that his players must maintain high levels of performance if they wish to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them.
"I see the gaffer down at Academy training and I've been in and around the football club for over six years now. He's been here for that period of time too and I completely respect him and believe in what he's doing at Rotherham United,” said Toner on the impact of Warne.
"He understands the difficulty of the task within youth development due to his experience of playing and coming through that, but also due to the fact that he came into the professional game at a later stage in his career.
"That helps us because it gives him an understanding of the real world and he knows that chances can be few and far between for young footballers. With that in mind, he's very supportive of what we're doing and that's brilliant for us because he doesn't have to be.”
With the Academy still yet to taste defeat in the league following their recent 2-2 draw away to Burton Albion, Toner has seen plenty of encouraging signs to suggest that there could well be a few more players succeeding in their bids to become professional footballers.
Knowing that they have the first-team boss casting an eye over their development, Toner insists the youngsters are hungry to impress in the knowledge that they have a chance to follow in the footsteps of those that have made the step up before them.
"The fact that Paul Warne takes so much notice in our work has a direct impact on the likes of Ben Wiles, Laurence Bilboe, Jake Cooper and the other lads that have progressed through the system,” Toner added.
"I don't think it's a coincidence that we're starting to see players coming through the Academy and making their way into the first-team group. Matt Hamshaw deserves a lot of credit too, and you've got Richie Barker who has a longstanding history in youth player development."