Crewe Alexandra Manager Dario Gradi wants his latest crop of fledglings to prove that they can cope with the demands of first-team football.
Gradi wants the likes of Shaun Miller, Byron Moore, Luke Murphy and teenager Matt Tootle to form a vital part of his squad this term.
Speaking to BBC Radio Stoke, Gradi said:
“Pre-season will be important because I’m starting with a clean sheet. They’ve all got talent, but if we’re going to improve as a team, individuals need to improve.”
With Crewe about to start their second consecutive term in League Two, Gradi urged his young players to follow the lead of midfielder Ashley Westwood who became a mainstay of the side last season and ended up winning the Player of the Year award after a string of impressive displays.
“Westy’s probably favourite to be the next one to hit the headlines,” added Gradi. “He’s worked extremely hard and I’m expecting he’ll improve – but I’m hoping that they will all improve.”
“I’ve been waiting for Miller to become the next Nicky Maynard for a few years. There were signs last year that he was combining with others better.”
“He could argue that I haven’t given him a long enough run, but I’ve got six strikers to choose from and I can’t give them all long runs.”
“There’s Murphy, who we thought was going to be a high-flier, and he’s done fine but he hasn’t really yet established himself as a player to go and play higher.”