Andre Wisdom says Derby County’s young guns are respected in the same way as anyone else in the squad.
Derby’s starting line-up in last Saturday’s 3-2 victory at Millwall included three players from the club’s Academy system, as well as a further three on the substitutes’ bench.
One of the youngsters, Louie Sibley, stole the show as Derby returned to action following a three- month suspension of the season due the COVID-19 outbreak with a deserved win.
Eighteen-year-old Sibley netted a hat-trick in just his second league start in professional football at The Den, after stepping up to the first-team fold over the course of the campaign.
Versatile defender Wisdom, 27, says the Academy graduates have all come out of their shells to quickly become key members of manager Phillip Cocu’s squad.
Speaking to RamsTV, Wisdom said: “It’s a bit different in training because usually the younger guys are a bit quieter and timid, but the lads just get them to open up a bit and get them involved in the banter.
“The likes of Louie Sibley, Max Bird and Jason Knight - and there are more as well from the Academy - have all come out their shells and are a big part of the team.
“It’s good for the younger lads to chip in vocally and to put their opinions across. They are all professionals and age is just a number; everyone is respected just the same.”
Sibley’s rise to the first-team set-up has seen his start Derby’s last three fixtures either side of the suspension in the season.
He impressed in the FA Cup Fifth Round defeat against Manchester United in early March and was rewarded with a start in the Rams’ final fixture before the COVID-19 outbreak escalated against Blackburn Rovers.
The youngster marked the occasion with a stunning long-range strike, scoring his first professional goal, as Derby ran out 3-0 winners.
Wisdom, who is in his third season with Derby as a permanent player after signing from Liverpool in 2017, believes Sibley has shown the potential to enjoy a positive career in the game.
He said: “It is a great achievement for anyone to score a hat-trick and given his age and the type of team we were up against, it’s hard to score three goals in a game as a team.
“To do it as an individual is great. Hopefully, he can continue to put in good performances and goals will come. He has got the world ahead of him so if he works hard and trains hard, it will all help. “
He added: “What is young these days?! Once you step into first team football, age is just a number because you are around it and part of the team.
“We don’t look at his age as a thing. Obviously, he is a great player because he plays professional football and competes physically and mentally.”