Coach Shaun Cooper believes the absence of several members of the AFC Bournemouth under-21 squad will “open the door” for the club’s talented under-18s to showcase their talents at a higher level.
No fewer than 11 players from the under-21s will gain valuable experience after either securing new loan moves or extending existing deals during the January transfer window.
Their departures will see a host of under-18s elevated to the under-21s, both for training and matches in the Premier League Cup, Central League Cup and Hampshire Senior Cup.
Under coach Alan Connell, the under-18s have reached the quarter-final of the FA Youth Cup for only the second time in the club’s history and will host Manchester City at Vitality Stadium in the last eight.
The Cherries were tonight due to meet Sholing in the quarter-final of the Hampshire Senior Cup but the tie has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at the Universal Stadium.
Cooper told afcb.co.uk: “Lots of the under-21s have gone on loan because they are at an age where they need to establish themselves in competitive men’s football.
“It’s an important time for them. If it’s a choice between holding on to a larger squad or the boys going on loan, for them, individually, it’s the best move.
“It’s a good opportunity for the under-18s. During their preparation for the FA Youth Cup they will work with Alan to get ready for the next round.
“In between, they will spend a lot of time with us and it will be a good opportunity for them to show what they can do in a physically-stronger environment and a faster pace of football.
“It opens the door for them to step up and show what they can do because we are going to need them and they will have plenty of opportunities.
“They have done really well. I’ve seen a lot of them, I know them well and Alan has done a really good job with them.
“They have a great fighting spirit, a lot of ability and Alan has done a good job schooling them in all the classic AFC Bournemouth characteristics and traits.”