Blackburn Rovers v Wimbledon - Peter Whie's big match preview

ALEX Ferguson's youth policy might have the highest profile but Joe Kinnear will arive at Ewood tomorrow leading a Wimbledon squad packed with home-grown stars.

And, if there is a secret to the Dons' remarkable success story, it is the seemingly endless supply of young talent which seems to roll off their production line.

Add to that a handful of bargain buys and you have the Kinnear formula to survive and ultimately propser.

The Wimbledon boss is acutely aware of how important it is to develop and keep their own stars.

That is why, earlier this season, he persuaded young strikers such as Carl Cort and Jason Euell to put their names to long-term contracts.

Even if the dynamic duo, aged 20 and 21 respectively, were to move on, Wimbledon would be able to extract their full value.

Much of the money would then be invested in recruitment of more raw material, plus a modest signing or two from a neighbouring club, and the bandwagon continues to roll along.

But there is little doubt that Kinnear would like to keep players like Cort and Euell, for he believes they are capable of going all the way.

Cort, for example, stands six feet four inches tall and possesses all the traditional attributes which have made Wimbledon strikers so hard to handle over the years.

Typically, he was picked up as a 14-year-old Sunday League player, worked on by the staff and graduated through the ranks into a fully-fledged Premiership player.

"He's done exceptionally well for us," said Kinnear.

"He's got strength, he's quick for a big lad, his first touch is good and he's got an eye for goal. He's not over-awed by the big occasion and his temperament's good."

What more can a manager ask for from a striker?

Cort and Euell scored 150 goals between them in just two seasons for the youth and reserve teams at Wimbledon and the manager said: "The prospects for those two are as good as for anything that is around in football. "I think that both of them will be certainties for England under-21 honours next season."

Both have signed five-year deals, and the rest of the squad are also tied for the reasonable future, which sums up the spirit which continues to characterise Wimbledon sides.

"They are all very happy here and are committed to the club and each other," added Kinnear.

"Everybody wants to be here long term which speaks volumes."

Cort began the season well and was out in front as Wimbledon's top scorer at one stage.

Then Euell made his presence felt in the scoring stakes to overtake his young rival.

There is a great deal of competition for places in attack with Efan Ekoku now back from injury and the likes of Marcus Gayle and Andy Clarke also challenging.

It is a happy situation for Kinnear who has great faith in his young guns but, realising you can always improve what you have, he went out before the transfer deadline and spent a modest £300,000 on Charlton's Carl Leaburn.

Leaburn was something of a cult figure during his 11 years at Charlton, where he became as famous - or infamous - for his misses as the 66 goals he scored in 376 appearances.

But Kinnear saw a target man someone like Euell could play off. "He has done well for us. He can still polish other parts of his game but he's a brave lad and gets in the right areas and he can hold up the ball for us," explained Kinnear.

"Players like Jason Euell can't do that and I don't like to see the ball coming back off the centre halves all the time.

"I am not going to say he will get a million goals for us but he will make goals."

The signing of Leaburn followed the Dons' familiar trend and, if he has shaken off hamstring problems, he will be in tomorrow's squad with other astute imports such as Michael Hughes, Andy Roberts and Gayle.

They will blend in with a mass of home-produced talent like Neil Sullivan, Chris Perry, Dean Blackwell, Neal Ardley plus Cort and Euell.

And it is also worth pointing out that Kinnear is currently launching another potential star on an unsuspecting Premiership -- 19-year-old midfielder Damien Francis.

You wouldn't exactly call it working on a shoestring. The way it has evolved for Wimbledon, it is more of a golden thread.

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