Town’s young stars thrown in at deep end

Steven Schumacher was one of the more experienced men on duty for Fleetwood this week
Steven Schumacher was one of the more experienced men on duty for Fleetwood this week

Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander admitted the last month has been a steep learning curve for his Highbury squad.

Town have been hit hard by injury, losing the majority of their most experienced players.

Jeff Hughes is sidelined long-term with a broken leg, while Steven Schumacher has suffered a brace of injury setbacks and David Ball’s return to action has been put back on more than one occasion.

It’s put huge pressure on Town’s less experienced squad members, who Alexander says are having to learn as they go.

“These are young players,” he told The Gazette. “They learn through experience.

“You have to be at it every day. You can’t drop off, not once.

“That’s what they have to find out and it’s what they are doing.”

Jon Parkin was the only player with extensive Football League experience when Town lined up against AFC Wimbledon at the weekend.

Other than the big striker, skipper Mark Roberts has played three seasons with former club Stevenage.

Both were substituted before the end, leaving Conor McLaughlin the most experienced man on the field.

It’s a fact which hasn’t escaped the Fleetwood management team.

Alexander said: “We spoke the other week when things went against us in the Plymouth game.

“Chris (Lucketti) looked at the age and the league experience out there at the time.

“It was an inexperienced squad. These are undoubtedly talented players.

“But this league and professional football is a grind.

“You get dips and the experience brings you through”.

Goalkeeper Chris Maxwell is in his first League Two campaign, while left-back Charlie Taylor had played only a few games on loan away from Elland Road. Nathan Pond and Alan Goodall both came with Fleetwood from non-league football.

In midfield, Antoni Sarcevic is in his first full campaign and Stewart Murdoch’s previous experience is north of the border, while Josh Morris and Alex Marrow have each spent limited time on loan, away from Ewood Park, with lower league sides.

In a bid to redress the balance, Alexander brought in Bobby Grant on loan from Blackpool – a move which didn’t go to plan.

The frontman was stretchered off after just 38 minutes.

Alexander said: “With the injuries we had to Jeff (Hughes) and Steven Schumacher we’ve missed that (experience). We thought bringing Bobby in would give us that bit of experience.

“He’s a little bit streetwise but we lost him almost straight away.

“That’s just how things have been recently.”

But the manager refuses to make an excuse of his current squad’s relative lack of League experience.

Instead he wants his young stars to step up to the plate and take the opportunity to make a name for themselves.

“We have to get on with the job,” he said.

“When we’ve got a fully fit squad we’re a match for anyone – the evidence is there.

“You have players who are great for you, who make themselves a big part of the team.

“When you lose them it takes a bit of time to adjust.

“Sometimes that doesn’t happen as smoothly as you want but we have to do the work on the training ground to ensure we can cover for those absences.”

Fleetwood lie sixth in League Two with 12 games remaining.

And their young guns have an ideal opportunity to get the campaign back on track away at rock-bottom Torquay on Saturday.