Listening to Neil Critchley’s press conference today I’m trying to guess who the starting XI will be vs. Shrewsbury tomorrow. A few names are pretty obvious, but he does have some decisions to make.
The goalkeeper will be Caoimin Kelleher. The backup should be Ben Winterbottom
Neco Williams will start at right back. Left back will either be Yasser Larouci, Adam Lewis or possibly Tony Gallacher. Larouci was hurt in his last U23 match but Critchley says he has a chance to make this game, maybe. Lewis was playing more in midfield prior to getting injured early in the season and missing 3 months, but he was switched there mainly because of Larouci’s emergence during the preseason tour. Gallacher has also played some at left back although he’s a more natural right back.
Center back is basically three players vying for two slots (and Critchley could possibly go with 5 at the back, they used that formation some earlier in the U23 schedule). Kijana Hoever seems likely to start and many of you will recognize Sepp van den Berg as a summer transfer from Belgium, but Morgan Boyes has developed well this season and might be preferred to partner Hoever (or as I say, all three of them could play from the beginning in a defensive formation).
The midfielders used last Wednesday seem to have an inside lane for starting tomorrow. That’s Leighton Clarkson, Pedro Chirivella and Jake Cain. But Elijah Dixon-Bonner leads the U23s in appearances this year and is a bit older. Cain is an attacking midfielder and Critchley could opt to use Curtis Jones or Harvey Elliott there instead of playing those at forward. Adam Lewis could play In midfield and while he’s only a U18 player, Clarkson has impressed when he’s gotten in. Switches play very well a la Hendo.
Jones, Elliott and Joe Hardy would seem the most likely front 3 if we go 4-3-3, but if one of those play in midfield, then you might see Liam Millar up front.
There have been 5 first team games where a number of kids were used. The appearance statistic from those for our kids are as follows:
Harvey Elliott started all five of these matches and is nailed on for Tuesday. Curtis Jones started four and subbed on for the fifth. Pedro Chirivella has appeared in all five matches. Neco Williams has played in three but he actually missed one because he was in Qatar with the first team for cover at right back. Kelleher started three while Van den Berg and Hoever each started two. Boyes and Gallacher each started at Villa.
Predicted lineup with age: Kelleher (21), Williams (18), Hoever (18), Boyes (18), Gallacher (20), Chirivella (22), Lewis (20), Dixon-Bonner (19), Elliott (16), Hardy (21), Jones (19). Subs: Winterbottom (18), Van den Berg (18), Clayton (19), Clarkson (18), Longstaff (18), Cain (18), Millar (20).
Average age of starters: 19.9