Time to shake off ‘little Fleetwood’ tag

Ashley Hunter is one of the young players who have broken through at Town

Ashley Hunter is one of the young players who have broken through at Town

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Chief executive Steve Curwood is expecting to see a number of Fleetwood Town’s development squad players make the step into the first team this summer.

Town have made no secret of their desire to develop young footballers at Highbury rather than buy in talent.

It’s a plan Curwood believes has paid off quicker than expected, with Nick Haughton, Ashley Hunter and Tyler Forbes all stepping up to play in League One, with more rising stars waiting in the wings.

Indeed, Town have been forced to boost the numbers in Barry Nicholson’s group – a number of trialists were involved in the victories over Burnley and Liverpool last week and more signings are expected to be revealed in the coming days.

Curwood said: “We’ve found the development group was an important way of bridging the gap between the first team and the youth set-up. It’s borne fruit slightly more easily than we would have anticipated.”

“Half the development group now would be recognised in the first team squad next season. It’s a rebuilding exercise now.”

Town’s first team could look very different at the start of next season, with experienced players out of contract over the summer.

Top scorer David Ball is among those who could leave the club.

Skipper Mark Roberts, along with Stephen Jordan, Nathan Pond, Stewart Murdoch, Gareth Evans, Steven Schumacher, Jeff Hughes, Stephen Crainey and Liam Hogan could also leave, while loan deals are up for Stephen Dobbie and Josh Morris.

Curwood hinted some of the slack could be taken up by Town’s youngsters.

He added: “There will be a number of positions where we’re looking at new options.

“But some of that will be supplemented by the development squad and new input into the development squad.”

“Some of those who have achieved in the development squad will undoubtedly have moved into the first team environment.”

Town will kick-off their fourth Football League campaign in August and Curwood believes it’s time to shake off their minnows tag.

“We’re at a crossroads as to where we go now as a football club,” he said. “We’ve got to shake off our quirky background, the ‘little Fleetwood Town’ badge we might have.

“We want to be a respected, well thought of, well run football club with its traditions in the Football League.

“That’s what we have to create. We can’t punch with the Bristol Citys, the Sheffield Uniteds of this world, although we have done in terms of our result at Bramall Lane.

“In terms of budge and infrastructure, we’ll never be around those football clubs in the foreseeable future.

“That’s why we have to do things our own way. We have to find a way of competing with them without that significant financial muscle.”