ROVERS Academy boss Stuart Jones believes there are some exciting prospects within the club’s Under-23 ranks but acknowledges that plenty of hard work lies ahead for them.

Six Academy graduates have been handed first-team debuts so far this season as reward for their excellent performances at their age group level under boss Damien Johnson.

First-team manager Tony Mowbray has been impressed by the club’s rising stars but doesn’t want to burden them with the pressure of trying to fire the club to promotion from League One.

And Jones, who replaced Eric Kinder as the club’s Head of Academy in the summer, is happy to see the next generation continuing to develop in their current environment as they bid to make the step up.

“Results wise they have done really well, but for me it’s the performances,” Jones said.

“We talk about development and we want them to have winning mentalities, definitely, because that’s what is required at first-team level “I just feel they are going from strength to strength in terms of they are pulling each other along.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on them but there are some exciting prospects in there who we feel have an opportunity and are in an environment with two people (Johnson and assistant David Dunn) who know the club inside and out and are doing fantastically well with them.

“They have had opportunities to train with the first-team and be involved with the first-team so it’s an exciting time for that age group but ultimately they have a lot of hard work ahead to really establish themselves.”

Dan Butterworth celebrated signing his first professional deal with Rovers by netting a terrific solo goal in Monday’s 3-3 draw with Cardiff City in the Premier League Cup.

Joe Rankin-Costello, Ryan Nyambe and Scott Wharton are other Academy graduates to pen long-term contracts since the summer and Jones feels Rovers have the core of a strong squad coming through.

He added: “These are young players who are seen to have real opportunities in the game so it’s important from a club perspective that we tie the assets we have here.

“We want them to progress in to our first-team which is important.

“There’s a core of an Under-23s group who have come through around the same age group and are really developing and pushing each other along.

“They have got Damien and Dunny who have been fantastic with them in terms of their development and there is a core there who have opportunities and chances to develop. It’s important for the football club that we continue as an Academy to try and get the best players we can and develop them for our first-team.”

After Mowbray’s arrival as first-team boss in February David Lowe was promoted from his role as Head of Academy Coaching to assistant manager while Dunn was moved up from his Academy role to work as first-team coach.

Since the arrival of Mowbray’s long-term number two Mark Venus in June, Dunn has returned to the Under-23s while Lowe remains part of the first-team set-up.

And Jones believes having Johnson and Dunn as part of the coaching staff is having a real benefit.

“It’s fantastic for the young players going up to have Damien and Dunny up there who have been there, seen it and done it, and they know the club,” Jones added.

“They have been born and bred here and that’s fantastic for our players to get that knowledge and learn from club idols who have come through the system.

“David Lowe going up, he understands the work that has been going on here for the past four, five, six years so that is really important and it’s great for us that we have staff up there who understand the demands of the Academy and the work we’re doing which is brilliant for us.”