KARL Robinson couldn’t name a full bench for the 0-0 draw against Sheffield Wednesday - because the youth team had a game at the same time.
Mike Dove’s academy side had already been hit when Robinson called up teenagers Brandan Galloway, Dele Alli and Giorgio Rasulo to the first team squad for the FA Cup third round game at Hillsborough. But with the injury crisis currently ruling out eight first team members, Robinson asked for more - namely Mason Spence and Harry Hickford to complete his full compliment of substitutes.
Another teenager, 18-year-old Zeli Ismail on loan from Wolves, was also given his second start of the season on the right flank.
“I would’ve played filled my bench with youth players, but the youth team had a game today and I’ve taken four of his players already!”
The game was a battle between two very evenly matched sides, and it showed in the stale goalless draw. Dons probably had the best chances to win it though, with Shaun Williams twice coming close in the final 10 minutes, seeing his second effort come back off the post.
Robinson rolled the dice late in the game by playing Alli and Rasulo, and he said it is vital to develop young players early.
He said: “I love working with young players. It’s a burning desire of mine to get them through the system.
“It’s good for them to be around pros in a hotel environment, in the warm-up, getting changed, seeing the intensity from the manager and assistant manager, the anxiety of a sub waiting to go on, the facial expressions of someone playing – it’s important and something we need to see more often.
“For me, the best youth development programme is having young players playing as high as they can as soon as they can. Unless they’re playing competitive football, they’re going to get lost in the system.
“I think it’s important, and people tend to think you only put young players on then you’re 3-0 up. I want to put them on at 1-1! They will never let you down, because they’ve got so much enthusiasm. They might make mistakes, but that’s just human error.
“I thought Deli going on, at 16, looked an accomplished player. Giorgio Rasulo got in the England squad and scored the winner against Scotland at Burton. He’s someone whose I’ve watched flourish over the last three or four years and it was nice to get him on.
“It’s really important because we can’t go and spend millions, so the only way I can bring in new players is look to youth. Is it brave? Not really, because I know they’re not going to let me down.”