Ryan Lowe’s willingness to give young players a first team chance at Plymouth Argyle has been described as ‘refreshing’ by former Pilgrims’ striker Ian Stonebridge.
Striker Luke Jephcott, 20, had a breakthrough season in 2019/20, which included him being named as the Sky Bet League Two Player-of-the-Month for January.
Goalkeeper Mike Cooper and midfielder Adam Randell were also regulars in and around the first team squad at very early stages in their career.
Stonebridge was only 17 when he made his debut for Argyle at the start of the 1999/2000 season, after being released by Tottenham Hotspur.
He scored six goals in his first eight games and his fine form led to him being called up to play for England under-18s.
Stonebridge, twice a promotion winner with Argyle, is now a sport coaching lecturer at Plymouth Marjon University.
He has coached within the Argyle academy over recent years, although he has had to put that on hold due to other commitments.
Stonebridge has still attended games at Home Park regularly and been impressed with what he has seen from Lowe’s Pilgrims.
He also thought comparisons could be made between Lowe and former Pilgrims’ boss Paul Sturrock, who Stonebridge played under.
Lowe led Argyle to promotion in his first season as manager, finishing third in the COVID-19 curtailed League Two campaign of 2019/20.
Stonebridge told Plymouth Live’s #ArgyleChat podcast: “It has been quite refreshing I think, the willingness to play football and to trust the players.
“It’s not dis-similar to Sturrock. I think he has got a really clear philosophy about what he wants to do – along with Steve Schumacher and Neil Dewsnip.
“That’s evident in that they want to keep trying this positive way of playing out from the back and being really constructive with the way they play.
“I think that’s great to see, and they have got players that are good enough to do that as well.”
Stonebridge has taken a particularly close interest in the progress of 19-year-old Randell, who he worked with as the Argyle under-11s coach.
“It’s great to see some of the younger players in the squad, Adam Randell in particular,” said Stonebridge.
“He’s a player I signed as an under-11 coach. He hasn’t changed much – he was a really fantastic, intelligent young player back then.
“It’s great to see him getting a chance to be in the squad and I’m sure he will continue to develop.”
Stonebridge also witnessed first hand the development of the highly-rated Cooper through the academy.
Such is Cooper’s potential that Argyle signed him on a two-and-a-half year contract last December.
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Stonebridge said: “He had some fantastic coaching through that academy from Rhys Wilmot and I’m sure there is lots to come from those two (Cooper and Randell), and more.
“Luke Jephcott broke through last season. It’s so refreshing to see those younger players getting a chance.
“I think that has been a real positive from Ryan Lowe’s tenure so far, that willingness to trust the younger players and give them a chance where he could.”