Rovers reporter Rich Sharpe looks at three Academy graduates who could make their first-team breakthrough next season.


EVERY player will remember their senior debut, but perhaps Willem Tomlinson will more than most given it was against Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round in front of the television cameras.

It was one of two senior outings for the 19-year-old, who made his Championship debut under Tony Mowbray in the latter stages of the 1-0 win over Derby County on February 28.

Tomlinson has been around the Rovers first-team for much of 2017, 11 times an unused substitute. A combative central midfielder, he has still featured in 27 Under-23 games, including all three in the Checkatrade Trophy, despite his first-team commitments.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Currently he is one of just two central midfielders on the books for next season, and would fit in to the Mowbray mould of ball-playing technicians in the middle of the park.

He has scored just five times in 86 appearances for the Under-18s and Under-23s combined, a tally he will look to improve on going forward.


THE left-back is under contract at Rovers until the summer of 2019 after penning a new two-year deal in January.

He is yet to make his senior Rovers debut, but has been a regular for Damien Johnson’s Under-23s for the past two seasons, and also featured twice in the Checkatrade Trophy in the early part of the 2016/17 season. That coincided with his involvement in the first-team squads in August for the EFL Cup win over Crewe, and the Championship draw with Burton.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Injury curtailed his season, picking up an ankle knock in Rovers’ penultimate Premier League 2 Cup group game against Cardiff City at Leyland in February. But he still managed to rack up 26 appearances for the Academy side in 2016/17, and will be pushing for first-team inclusion next season.

Should he return to fitness in time for pre-season training, Doyle should expect to see some game time in the close season, as he did last summer, with Derrick Williams the only current option at left-back for Rovers following the departure of Adam Henley.


NOT 18 until July, Rovers have high hopes for Rankin-Costello who joined from Manchester United in 2014.

He quickly established himself as a key member of both the Under-18s and Under-23s, despite being just 16, scoring 10 goals, as Billy Barr’s side reached the last four of the FA Youth Cup.

The attacking midfielder, who can operate in the wide and central areas, clocked up another 36 appearances this term, with all but three of those coming for the Under-23s.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Rovers have already tied him down to a contract until 2019, and will be looking for the teenager to have another strong season with the Academy sides and look to push for first-team honours before too long. His ability to run with the ball and commit players makes him an exciting player to watch, while he’s also shown an ability to finish when presented with chances in front of goal.

His decision making in and around the box will improve with age and experience.