Joe Edwards was full of praise for Romian Esse as the youngster scored his second goal of the season on his first league start since the 3-1 defeat at Norwich back in August.
It’s the first time the 18-year-old has started since Edwards arrived in SE16.
Esse opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a left-footed strike inside the penalty area as the Lions fell to a 2-1 defeat at Coventry on Sunday.
“I was delighted for him and, if I’m honest, it didn’t surprise me, ” said Edwards.
“When I first came in, he was a player that I already knew because I was in the England set-up, and Romain was in the age group below me. I knew him as a player, so I was excited to work with him when I got this job. He is very young – his acceleration from academy to a first-team squad player at Millwall was rapid. He bypassed the under-21s in terms of a development programme.”
“I’ve seen in recent weeks in the games where Romain’s come on, he’s made a bit of a statement and backed it up every day in training. During the last couple of weeks on the training pitch, he looked like a different player from the one I saw every day in December. So today, his opportunity to start was absolutely him earning it. It had nothing to do with resting others or injuries – it was him earning it. He got his chance, and he took it.”
Edwards has seen plenty of young players working in the England youth setup and admits Esse’s talent excites him.
“It gives me excitement, ” said the Lions head coach. “Helping young players is all you can do. I’ve had much experience doing that. And when you see it comes out in success for them – whether short-term like today or longer-term when you see where their careers go – you get a lot of satisfaction from it.
“It’s always something I would like to be a part of my work. What I would say at the same time is that just because I have an academy background, there definitely will never be any handouts. When you’re at a club like this with the amount of honest and hard-working senior players that we’ve got, and when you’re in the difficult position we’re in – it’s very much a transition season for this team – the young players have to earn their opportunity.”
“The staff and I talk about him every day. We discuss the players when we finish training or watch the video again. But he’s certainly been poking us with his performances recently and saying, ‘Come on, you need to take note’. And he’s done it consistently for a couple of weeks, so it was time to put him in.”
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