Damien Johnson says it’s all part of the process that the Under-23s squad will go through something of a transition.

Willem Tomlinson and Lewis Hardcastle, mainstays of the side which won promotion to Premier League 2 in 2017/18, have since moved on to Mansfield and Barrow respectively, while Lewis Travis and Joe Nuttall have become part of the first-team squad.

Defenders Scott Wharton, Joe Grayson, and Matty Platt, plus midfielder Brad Lyons, were among those to spend this season out on loan and their next moves will be weighed up this summer.

Johnson will welcome a number of young players in to his squad for next season, with Gibraltar international Louis Annesley, a central defender signed from Lincoln Red Imps in January, set to play more of a role.

The teenager started in the Lancashire Senior Cup win over Burnley, while Isaac Whitehall and Sam Barnes, who has spent time on loan at Marine this season, were used off the bench.

England youth international Jake Garrett is among those to have signed professional contracts with the club as Rovers continue to keep building for the future.

“That’s the process,” Johnson said of filtering new players in to his squad.

“This time last year the team had Lewis Hardcastle, Willem Tomlinson, Matty Platt, Lewis Travis, Joe Nuttall.

“They all move on and then you are looking for the next ones to come in and step up.

“You have the likes of Louis Annesley, Sam Barnes, Isaac Whitehall, they are going to get opportunities from the get go from pre-season.

“The onus is on them to adapt quickly from Under-18s to Under-23s football.

“That’s something they have to look forward to.”

Rovers started slowly in Premier League 2 last season but a strong finish saw them end the campaign in fifth place, as well as a securing a spot in the Premier League Cup quarter finals.

Grayson, Tyler Magloire, John Buckley and Dan Butterworth all made their first team debuts this season, with Tony Mowbray continuing to keep a close eye on the progress of Rovers’ most promising Academy prospects.

And Johnson believes the attention Mowbray places on the Under-23s group, and other coming through the Academy, makes his job easier.

“The tendency is to not give young players opportunities, but we’re so grateful to have the manager that we have, who gives chances to the youngsters,” said Johnson who was named ‘Unsung Hero’ at the club’s end of season awards last month.

 “In all my time here, I’ve never worked with a manager that watches as many youth team games and Under-23s games if he’s available.

 “That makes my job so much easier because there’s no need to motivate the lads from my end.

 “They know there is a pathway and an opportunity here, and at the moment the manager is giving them their chance.”