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Blues Under-23s back at St. Andrew's

Paul Robinson and Richard Beale look on at the Under-23s from the dugouts
Paul Robinson and Richard Beale look on at the Under-23s from the dugouts

You should always be flat out and at the top of your game, but everyone is a human being and definitely playing at the stadium, in that environment, ramps it up a little bit.

Richard Beale

Blues Under-23s face Sheffield United Under-23s at the St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium on Saturday (11am).

Victory could consolidate their position as a title challenger in the PDL North. Blues are third, four points off the top, after 11 fixtures.

Then, on Tuesday, the Development Squad face Hednesford Town away in the Second Round of the Birmingham Senior Cup (7.45pm).

It's an important couple of games in four-day spell.

"The lads are in good shape, they have trained really hard. Their attitudes have been excellent all season," said Senior Professional Development Coach Richard Beale.

“We haven’t played as well the last couple of games as we would have liked. But they have hit some really good levels before that, so we are hoping we are back to that Saturday.

“Sheffield United are always a tough test. You know what you are coming up against. It’s always a good game of football, competitive.

“Tuesday, we know what the Senior Cup games are all about. It’s a different kind of test. I know both the managers there – they have got joint managers – I have played under them and there will be no quarter given.

“If the lads can come through these two games with high level performances they will be all the better for it.”

This season Blues have tried to mirror the First Team schedule as much as possible. And that means playing at St. Andrew's when they can on a Saturday when Garry Monk's men are away.

Beale said: “It’s as close as you can be, without the fans, to the real deal, which is what they are all after.

“You should always be flat out and at the top of your game, but everyone is a human being and definitely playing at the stadium, in that environment, ramps it up a little bit.

“It’s the home of the football club and we always want to put on a good show there.”

Another definite policy shift this season has been to send out players on loan, in order to gain different experiences on and off the pitch, to aid their development.

Under-23s Captain Josh Martin is the latest to have been loaned, to Hungerford Town in the National League South. Martin scored on his debut, a 2-0 win, but suffered a 3-0 defeat to Woking in midweek. Jake Weaver is also on loan with the Crusaders.

“It's done to constantly stretch the playes," explained Beale. "Josh has been in the Under-23 team now for a year-and-a-half. He has done really well, his attitude has been good and he needs a new challenge.

“We never want the boys to stand still. By going out, it will test him by facing different types of players, different intensities and practicalities week in, week out.

“You don’t always get that at Under-23 level, the physicality. He is going to get it all the time.

“That’s the next part of the development he needs.

“The team are low in the league, so he’s going to come under some pressure. Josh has played two games and done really well. We have had him watched and he has done well.

“Hopefully he can add the bits he needs to his game and come back to us a better player.”

Blues are having to contend with various injuries at Development Squad level.

Caolan Boyd-Munce injured his ankle in the game against Bolton Wanderers on 22 October, whilst Odin Bailey has been absent of late with a hip problem. He is not quite ready yet to play but could be available for the Birmingham Senior Cup tie.

Beale said: “Caolan still has his protective boot on but he is on the mend.

“Leo Brown, who injured his hamstring on international duty, is another long term.”

George Baker (ankle) was back out running in training this week.

Josh Andrews made his comeback from injury for the Under-23s in the Barnsley game a week ago.

Remeao Hutton, who broke a bone in his foot in the pre-season friendly against Solihull Moors, is out of his protective boot and making good progress, said Beale.

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