Craig Harrison is reluctant to throw his Hartlepool United kids in at the deep end – but, due to the club’s current plight, his hand might be forced.
Pools are again down to the bare bones, with just 16 bodies available for training this week, including two goalkeepers in Scott Loach and Ryan Catterick.
And, as a result, Harrison admits he has had to call on more and more of the kids from Matthew Bates’ Under-23 setup, just to make up the numbers in first-team training.
Further to that, the manager has revealed he might just have to turn to a few of them in his starting XI, potentially at Barrow in Saturday’s National League match.
The likes of Josh Hawkes and Liam Travers are the most likely to get the nod from the gaffer, even though, in an ideal world, he would steer clear of such measures.
Harrison said: “Josh Hawkes and Liam Travers played with the reserves on Tuesday, but they will be back in with the main group ahead of the weekend.
“We will have to give them a chance – it is through necessity that we need to bolster the squad.
“One or two of the first and second-year apprentices will be involved in first-team training this week and next week.
“Ideally I wouldn’t choose to put kids into the team in this situation, but it is a case of needs must.
“We have 20 pros, including two keepers and four first-years.
“The young lads are doing well for the reserves and have trained well with us.
“This is a great situation for them to get some gametime.
“There is no real fear with kids, the expectations are not there and hopefully they will look forward to it and get on with it.
“It’s never a case of over-thinking things with youngsters, they just get their head down and play.”
Week after week, Pools’ situation only seems to get worse on the injury front.
Harrison had hoped to be able to call upon Rhys Oates and Liam Donnelly this weekend, as well as potentially Ryan Donaldson – but all are out of the relegation six-pointer.
“It looks like Liam Donnelly won’t be fit, Rhys Oates won’t be fit either,” said Harrison. “Luke George will hopefully be able to play some part in the game and possibly Michael Ledger, too.
“Luke and Ledge have trained this week with the group and it is just seeing how they react to it heading into the weekend.
“We will keep an eye on it and see from there. We have a bare 15 or 16, plus the two goalkeepers, for Saturday.”
Another player who will be absent from the matchday squad is Jack Munns. The midfielder is expected to miss the next three weeks.