With our shocking FA Cup exit on Saturday, surely now is as good as time as any for Hughes to show faith in his youth players that are performing so well on a constant basis?

Mark Hughes has predictably opted to go back in for West Bromich Albion striker Saido Berahino for the third window in a row, and when Sky Sports News brought the graphic up of our strikers return rate in the Premier League this season, it wasn’t pretty reading…

You’d be forgiven for thinking Berahino would be the inaugural answer to save our season, though. The striker hasn’t featured for West Brom in the Premier League since the start of the season, and only boasts a return rate of four goals in his past 35 Premier League games.

January has never really notoriously been a month where you can get a real proven goal-scorer in your team, and with Stoke currently marooned in mid-table, ad in no real trouble of being relegated from the Premier League, why not show confidence in our youth players?

Last night was a prime example, as highly-rated youngster Tyrese Campbell netted a superb hat-trick to indicate to Mark Hughes – if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. His pace, positional awareness and most importantly, finishing shows that regardless of age, if you know where the net is, you’ll score goals in any standard of football.

Campbell brought his tally to eight from 13 this season, and it does’t stop there…

Dominic Telford, (who scored a wonder-goal in Andy Wilkinson’s testimonial) boasts a fantastic return-rate of five from six this season as he makes his comeback from injury, and Julien N’Goy, who made his debut on Saturday also has netted five in eight this season.

So far this season, Hughes involved arguably our hottest youth prospect Thibaud Verlinden with the first-team in the game against West Ham, and has given Julien N’Goy two substitute appearances, but as a fan, it would be most-pleasing to see these youngsters who are constantly producing given a chance, especially as our old guard currently aren’t delivering to the standard we need them to be.

It would serve no harm to our regular first-team players either, competition is always healthy, and if they feel their place is under threat from our youth players, then it’s their responsibility to deliver regularly to ensure they can get back into the team.

Mark Hughes has a huge responsibility for the development of our U23’s to integrate them, and if he doesn’t show that trust to them, Stoke City have a real chance of not only losing our current highly-talented bunch, but a struggle to attract the best youth players in the future.

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