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Youth going from strength to strength at Blues

Wes Harding in action against Nottingham Forest
Wes Harding in action against Nottingham Forest

Seven Academy products have been consistently part of Garry Monk's squad this season

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It's Youth Development Week in the EFL, when the spotlight falls on the players who have come up via the ranks and made breakthroughs in the Championship, Leagues One and Two.

Blues Academy has an excellent record of producing talent, and the opportunity is there at First Team level for the young players to flourish.

This season Connal Trueman and Charlie Lakin made their league debuts, following on from other regulars in Garry Monk's squad Wes Harding, Josh Dacres-Cogley and Beryly Lubala.

Viv Solomon-Otabor also came through the ranks and Omar Bogle, before his loan from Cardiff City was cancelled by mutual consent, was another ex-Academy product.

Corey O'Keeffe, another with senior experience, is pushing again, too, and Steve Seddon has been making waves out on loan and is highly regarded by Monk.

Josh Martin (Hungerford Town) and Dominic Bernard (Aldershot) have been doing well whilst gaining valuable experience in non-league.

Harding has really come into his own this campaign. He has made 20 appearances, and performed impressively at centre-half when Marc Roberts had to come off injured at Blackburn Rovers.

More often than not, it has been at right-back where he has contributed. Harding kept his place in that position when Kristian Pedersen was injured over the Christmas period, with Maxime Colin switching to the left.

In recent campaigns England's Jack Butland, Demarai Gray and Nathan Redmond all emerged and made more than 200 appearances combined in the EFL for Blues, where they made their mark.

This season there are emerging players staffing Blues Under-23s, who have been battling neck and neck with Leeds United at the top of the PDL North.

There have been a host of teenage regulars for Richard Beale's side, including Josh Andrews and Kyle Hurst, who both debuted aged 16, and Jude Bellingham, 15, has made the step-up, too.

Ryan Burke, Joe Redmond, Geraldo Bajrami - who is being incorporated into the Albania Under-21s set-up - Ryan Stirk, Ben Forrest, Caolan Boyd-Munce and Adam Siviter were all part of the Under-18s side that reached the FA Youth Cup Semi-Finals last season and are staples of the Under-23s.

Plus Odin Bailey, who made the bench for the Championship game against Ipswich Town in March, went away with the First Team in pre-season.

Blues' pedigree in bringing through their own and providing opportunity to flourish in the EFL is there for all to see.

It is not a recent phenomenon, either. You only have to go back to December 2012 when Lee Clark fielded a team against Burnley containing seven teenagers, including five Academy products with a further three on the bench.

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