CLARETS boss Eddie Howe could give the perfect pick-me-up to the Burnley youth team after their FA Youth Cup semi-final heartbreak.
The young Clarets lost 2-1 to derby rivals Blackburn Rovers at Turf Moor on Wednesday night in front of a crowd of 10,556, going down 3-1 on aggregate.
But Howe feels several of Terry Pashley’s side can go on and pull on a first-team jersey.
Steve Hewitt was on the bench for Saturday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham, while Cameron Howieson warmed up with the squad as he got a taste of things.
And while tomorrow’s trip to Portsmouth might come too soon, Howe is upbeat about the talent emerging at the club.
He said: “It was a really good night and a fantastic experience for the players to play in front of a crowd and an atmosphere like that, it can only do them the world of good in terms of their football experience and education.
“They’re a credit to the club, not only them but the staff – Terry and Faz (Andy Farrell) have done a fantastic job with the players.
“Even lower down, in the centre of excellence, everyone deserves a lot of credit as there’s a lot of work goes into those players.
“It was a really proud night for the club. I think there are a few who could feature in the first team.
“A lot will depend on what happens now and how they develop and their attitude going forward.
“But they’ve certainly got ability and there’s a really good mixture. They’ve got an excellent team in terms of balance, and the attitude I think is the stand-out thing.
“In all the games that I’ve watched, they never know when they’re beaten, and that will serve them well.”
Howe is conscious of hindering their progress, and won’t just throw them in at the deep end.
He said: “It can be dangerous to do that. If you chuck too many in at the same time it can actually do more harm than good.
“You need to play players when they’re ready to play.
“I’d like to think we could get a couple some action from now to the end of the season and integrate them into the squad.
“We will definitely have a number training with us in the first team because we’ve only got a small squad so it’s a really good opportunity to get them in with us on a day-to-day basis. We’ll assess it and hopefully make the right call on when to add them in.
“By training with the first team, you’ll bring their games on very quickly. That’s probably the best thing for them at the moment.
“Then there’s obviously the physical demand of playing in the Championship.
“We’ve got to make sure they can stand up to that.”
Burnley were beaten by a stronger, more physical Blackburn youth team, and Howe is aware of the physical demands of the Championship, and knows making the step up will be tough.
He said: “It is massive. Probably more from a physical standpoint than anything else and what you don’t want to do is throw in when they’re perhaps not physically ready.
“I think they’ve shown mentally that they can handle the big occasion – I don’t think in either game they’ve been overawed. It will be invaluable experience to play in that atmosphere.
“We’ve got high hopes for them. Hopefully now they can all kick on.”
Meanwhile, Howe is looking for a response after a run of one win in nine games.
He said: “I want to see a spirit and a determination that we showed against West Ham. I think that was evident for everyone to see.
“I thought we played some really good stuff for the first 60 minutes. There were really good signs for the future.
“We’ve got to make sure the season doesn’t peter out from our point of view.
“Although we may have nothing to play for in terms of the end product, every game is very important.
“A lot of fans will be travelling down to Portsmouth, and we’ve got to make sure we have a determination to try to win every game.
“There is a personal pride. Every time you step out onto the pitch you want to give your best and you want to win.
“We’re certainly not on our holidays. We’ve got a lot of work to do in these final games and we want to end the season on a high.”
Burnley are likely to again be without top-scorer Jay Rodriguez, as Howe explained: “Jay Rod’s still struggling a little bit. He’s been feeling this now for a couple of weeks.
“We just need to protect him and make sure there’s nothing serious. It’s a minor niggle, but one that we have to make sure we get right.”