Manager Keith Hill has confirmed that Academy graduate Johny Diba will be given a first team opportunity this season.
The 16-year-old, who lives locally and is a pupil at St Cuthbert's High School, will join the squad in Tenerife for the pre-season camp and is set to be an “integral” part of Hill’s squad for Dale’s League One campaign.
The young 'keeper has been at the club since the age of eleven and is already on the radar of the national set-up after having been called up to attend an England under 16 training camp on two occasions.
Speaking to Dale Player, Manager Keith Hill admitted he is pleased with the attitude shown by the young players throughout the close season as they attend extra sessions.
“They’ve shown a good appetite and the likes of Callum Camps, Andy Cannon and Johny Diba are going to be integral in my squad this season,” said Hill.
“Johny Diba will step up into the first team squad and he will be coming away to Tenerife with us in pre-season. I plan on playing him in goal in one of the three games that we play at Spotland, either against Wigan, Bolton or Middlesbrough, because we have to be able to see, with the encouragement from Josh and Steve Collis, how good he possibly is.
“It was a very difficult decision to release Robbie Thomson, but with Josh signing, knowing that I’ve got Steve Collis to rely upon as well, and the emergence of Johny Diba, who we have been keeping a close eye on, I needed to make room for Johny to make sure that he is given an opportunity. He might be young in age but I have to help give him an opportunity and that’s our intention.”
Hill continued: “I’ve had a good chat with Johny and during pre-season we’ll see where he’s at. I’ve probably got a six week window where I can see him and actually give him an opportunity, and we’ll be best knowing after that six week period whether he is capable of maintaining it.
“But like I said, I’ve also got Steve. The development that Josh went through under Steve Collis was incredible. Not only is he a very, very good goalkeeper in his own right, he is also a very good goalkeeping coach and if I have to drop back onto him then I will, however I’m very mindful that Johny Diba is a talent and sometimes you’ve just got to clear the path for them and that’s what we’ve done.”
He added: “The young lads have all shown great enthusiasm and we have to give these players an opportunity or what is the point, like I’ve said previously, of what we did last season.
“Last season was preparation for this season. We had an intention of getting promoted – it’s not always achievable, but last season was learning our development for this season. I said at the beginning of last season before we even did a training session that I had a squad which I believed was a League One squad, so I have taken the nucleus of that squad and taken it into League One. I have to give them an opportunity and it’s my intentions of doing so."
The full interview is on Dale Player.