Walsall Academy Manager Miguel Llera was proud to see Sam Perry and Joe Willis make their first team debut on Tuesday and sees the pair as role models to the rest of the academy players.
Perry played 90 minutes while Willis featured for 20 minutes against League One side Portsmouth in the Saddlers’ 2-1 defeat in the Leasing.com Trophy on Tuesday night.
Llera hopes their progress can inspire more of the academy players and was full of praise for Perry and Willis.
“It’s really well deserved for them,” he said.
“They have been training and playing more consistently this year. Obviously because they have been with the first team, they get their chance for performing consistently well in the Under 18s, behaving well and not causing an issue.
“They’re both role models and they are the kind of players that earn contracts. I think it’s a great stimulation for everybody else to see how academy players can progress to the first team.
While players have been progressing from the academy through to the first team, Llera has also seen Under 15s and Under 16s feature for the older age group and believes the pathway is there for young players at Walsall.
“At the moment, we have under 15s players with the Under 18s,” he added.
“There have been plenty of Under 16s have been playing Under 18s football and some have been involved training with the first team.
“It’s inspiration for everyone else to see a young player go through to the first team.”