ROVERS boss Paul Ince has strengthened his commitment to youth development by winning the race for schoolboy star Jason Banton.

The England youth international striker agreed to join Rovers after cutting ties with Premier League rivals Arsenal.

And the signing is seen as a major coup for Ince, with Manchester City reportedly among the clubs keen on recruiting the promising 15-year-old.

Banton’s arrival bares a similarity to Blackburn’s swoop for David Bentley in January 2006, when the England wideman left Arsenal for Ewood Park in a permanent deal.

While Rovers want to avoid comparing Banton to Bentley – who switched to Spurs this summer for £15million – club officials are delighted at securing the teenager’s services.

Rovers managing director Tom Finn believes the signing emphasises the club’s commitment to nurturing the best talent at their Academy – before giving them an opportunity at first-team level.

Already this season, Ince has blooded young Irish winger Keith Treacy in the Premier League, while Swedish full-back Martin Olsson started in each of Rovers’ previous two league games, against Newcastle and Manchester United.

“Jason has signed with us and we are delighted to have him here,” said Finn. “He’s a young England international, playing a year above his own age group.

“Obviously, it has been good to see some of our young players develop at the Academy and make it through to the first-team.

“That has happened over the last few years. We’ve seen Matt Derbyshire come through, and this season, Keith Treacy and Martin Olsson have been given opportunities at first-team level.

“These are players that have come through our system and been recognised by the first-team manager.

"It’s good to see them getting that opportunity.”

Finn is certain that more talented youngsters will be encouraged to join the Blackburn set-up, where they can identify a viable route from the Academy to the first-team.

It is not the same situation elsewhere, however, particularly at the Premier League’s so-called “big four”, including Arsenal, where league opportunities are restricted for their up-and-coming players.

“There’s no doubt that, here at Blackburn, there is a route through to the first-team from the Academy,” said Finn.

“That can only help us reach out to promising young players.

“If they can see that the manager is prepared to put his faith in young players - because they are good enough - then it helps enormously.”