Cleary, Tulloch, Loans and Aston Villa – West Brom Under-23s come together

West Brom are close to qualifying from their Premier League Cup group after snatching a final equalizer to earn a well-earned point against Southampton on Thursday.

A Jamie Andrews penalty and Reyes Cleary strike secured a point against Saints at ten and they extended their lead at the top of Group A, having fallen behind twice on the night.

Of the 32 teams competing in the cup, Albion is the top scorer with 14 goals in five games. They are five points clear of second-place Arsenal and six ahead of Bournemouth, although those teams have games in progress. Still, the fate of the Baggies is in their hands.

BirminghamLive spoke to club Under-23 boss Rich Beale after Cleary’s Rayhaan Tulloch game about first-team implications, loan potential and the upcoming PL2 derby with Aston Villa.

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Your players have never stopped trying to score…

I thought it was a really good game. The guys acquitted themselves well, gave it their all. We had three defenders who hadn’t trained together. We conceded a few bad goals from individual errors, but I never thought we were cut.

The guys continued until the end. Some of the players we have, we have goals all the time. It’s great that Reyes appeared with the goal. I think we got a well deserved point.

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Cleary might have scored a hat-trick on another night – he’s a real talent…

From the start, he was restless and almost scored because of his pace and energy. I really think he worked hard here, just like Owen [Windsor], as Rayhaan did, when your leading players work so hard, it sets the tone for the rest of the team.

I was really happy. I told the guys at the start of the season – we’ll have good days, we’ll have bad days, just make sure you work as hard as you can every day, and you won’t go far wrong. I think we got that from the guys here and it’s really nice.

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No Ashworth, no Taylor, no Ingram, no Fellows. Is the selection tricky?

I’ve been in it long enough to be comfortable with it and you make your adjustments. You can’t be frustrated with that, our job is to get the boys in and around the first team, or on loan, it’s fantastic that we have so many on loan and around the first team.

It gives opportunities to a number of college students that we had tonight, as well as first-year college students. All these young guys acquitted themselves very well. We played some good stuff.

Tom Fellows of West Bromwich Albion
Tom Fellows of West Bromwich Albion

Cleary and Ashworth’s debut in the FA Cup must have excited you…

That’s why all the youth coaches do it, to see these guys progress and, on Saturday, to see these two debuts. The other boys also in and around the team, knowing how hard they have worked.

Someone like Zac Ashworth is a fan of the club, someone who has been at the club since he was so young. The little extra for Zac was that his dad was there and it was against his team. Fantastic times that’s why we are in the job we do and fantastic the manager gave them opportunities

It was a stop start for a few years for Tulloch…

He is a player with a lot of potential. Hopefully he can get a good run of games now, whether it’s for us, for the first team, whether he’s on loan, hopefully he can really kick start his career and get going.

For all players, it’s about getting a series of games, and he’s had a stop-start season this season. I hope he put that behind him – you saw how well he played here, he can have a great career.

Intermediate time with loans currently. Do you plan to change it again before the end of the month?

Definitively. We are a January transfer window in the era of Covid, it’s a changing thing every day, things are moving. I’m lucky now to have a lot of experience, things fall on you, you lose players during the day, you lose players during sessions sometimes, you just have to adapt and keep going.

Hopefully the guys the club wants to move for do, the young players who want out. Hopefully those the manager wants around the first team get that, and these young lads are using it as a vehicle to get a head start in their careers.

We take in younger boys, and it’s just the process year after year.

Villa and Blues then – two teams you know very well!

Two very good games for the guys. Hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves then. All we can ask is that the boys show up and perform like they did tonight.

Show courage, sweat, work hard and the rest will take care of itself, because we have a lot of good players.

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