Billy Barr has played a big role in the development of Jack Vale and believes the Rovers youngster faces a key time in his development as he aims to push towards the first-team.

Vale signed a new long-term contract at Rovers last week having established himself as a regular for the Under-23s in the last 12 months.

Barr, promoted to Under-23s boss in the summer, previously worked with Vale during his time in charge of the Under-18s and has helped oversee the development of Vale since his arrival at Ewood Park from TNS as a 14-year-old

Now 18, Vale has been called up to the Wales Under-21s squad, with his club having high hopes for him as demonstrated by the new four-year deal that landed his way.

And Barr admits the attacker, who can play all across the forward line, can push towards the first-team should he continue his current rate of development.

“I’ve always been a supporter of Jack. The stuff he does with the ball excites everybody and he’s physically maturing and getting stronger,” said Barr.

“Some of what he does is a joy to watch. In fact, you forget what he can’t do because he’s so good at what he can do that others can’t.

“There’s still loads to work on, but the stuff that we knew was good about him is getting better and better.

“The challenge for Jack is to produce as often as he can. He joined at 14 and was training with the scholars when he first came and didn’t look out of place.

“Now, four or five years on, we’re hoping that the next six to 12 months really makes the difference in Jack and I hope that he gets an opportunity to train with the first team, as it will really help his development.”

Rovers are looking to add to their striking ranks within the Academy, with Joe Nuttall, so long the main option for the Under-23s during the course of the last two seasons, having signed for Blackpool this summer.

At first-team level, Rovers have a number of options in the forward areas, though Vale will hope to supplement that should he continue his development having played four times for the Under-23s so far this season.

“It’s very good news, as we all think a lot of Jack,” Barr told the club website.

“He’s been with us since the age of 14 and is developing into something that we think will help the first team further down the line.

“It would be great for him to get into our first team set-up, but we know the gaffer has plenty of options in the attacking areas.

“But you never know, injuries and suspensions may provide Jack with his the opportunity.

“For both him and us, it’s really good news.”

Vale will now join up with his country, as he looks to make his debut for Wales Under-21s in their Euro 2021 qualifier against Moldova on Friday.

He was named in the last squad, only to withdraw because of injury.

“I’ve been here for a while now and I’m happy to be here, so when the club offered me a new deal I was happy to put pen-to-paper and to carry on my journey here,” he said after signing his second professional contract at the club.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve always wanted to push on and now I just feel like I can push on even more and try to break into the first team.”