Williams sees bright future for Brighton & Hove Albion youngsters

Luke Williams
Williams was on the books of Norwich and Bristol Rovers as a schoolboy

The man in charge of Brighton's development squad, Luke Williams, says the club's young players will benefit from every experience they have in the first team.

Grant Hall and Ben Sampayo were handed their full debuts in the FA Cup tie against Wrexham, while six members of the squad finished the match.

Williams told BBC Sussex: "The sooner players can be blooded into the first team environment, the better.

"You take the positives from every situation. If they thrive in the atmosphere, it gives the manager something to think about."

Williams was appointed to head the development squad, designed to bridge the gap from the youth and reserve teams to the senior squad, in August 2010.

Jake Forster-Caskey is the most prominent of the current crop of young players to make the step up to the first team.

The 17-year-old made his debut for the Seagulls in May 2010 but has impressed this year after being thrust into the starting line-up to help Albion through their injury and suspension problems.

"Jake has played a few times now," Williams said. "It's a dream come true for him, but all of us at the club knew he had the ability to stay calm on the big stage.

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Getting best players a battle - Williams

"I think Jake's outgrown me a little bit, and it's now the job of the first team staff to keep him grounded.

"But he's very strong-willed and that helps him to be very confident in himself."

Williams says the Seagulls are always on the lookout for more players to join the development squad.

"It's always a battle to try and get hold of the best players you possibly can," he continued. "The club is moving forward in terms of recruitment.

"When the Premier League big boys start releasing players, there's often a lot of talent there for us to poach."

An artist's impression of Brighton's new training complex in West Sussex
Brighton recently announced plans for a new training complex and academy

Defender Sampayo is one such player on Albion's books, having joined the club last summer following his release from Chelsea.

"I did my scholarship at Chelsea but they told me they couldn't promise me a lot of reserve football," said Sampayo.

"I thought the move to Brighton would be better for me. The opportunities here attracted me.

"The development squad has made things easier for me. I've got more confidence and pushed on.

"It's all about the beautiful game here. We keep it on the floor, passing and moving. Before you know it, you've opened a team up and get your goal.

"Luke is a massive part. The amount of people involved [against Wrexham] shows his work.

"I've got a lot of thanks to give him as he's the one who's help me get where I am and given me my chance."

With a planning application submitted for a new training complex and academy in West Sussex, Williams believes the future is bright for the Championship club.

"Players are attracted to the club because of the style of football and the management," he concluded.

"What we lack maybe in financial status we make up some of that shortfall in the quality of the work we do."

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