YOUTH team boss Paul Groves has credited the non-league circuit with providing “invaluable” experience to Cherries’ next generation.

Cherries have utilised local clubs this season by sending out a number of their up-and-coming players to cut their teeth in senior football.

New Milton Town manager Glenn Burnett recently praised his Cherries trio of Ryan Case, Harrison Gilkes and Alex Moth – with the triumvirate playing a key role in Linnets’ Premier Division revival.

Other Wessex outfits to benefit from Cherries’ policy have included Hamworthy United and Laverstock & Ford, while Southern Division One South & West club Wimborne Town are currently handing regular football to midfield talent Elliot Ward.

Cherries under-18s manager Groves, the ex-Grimsby Town boss and a former coach at Portsmouth and West Ham United, believes the move has helped player development.

The 45-year-old told the Daily Echo: “First and foremost, the reason for getting them out was to give them a little bit of an early start for their development into men’s football.

“Whatever level our lads are going to play at next season, it will be among men, so that was the reason for getting them out.

“The difference has been being able to adapt to the different styles of people and their ideas of which way they want to play and, also, the physical side of the game.

“When you play youth football, you are playing against lads that are of a similar type of stature. You get the odd one who is much stronger than the rest, but most of them are pretty much on a par.

“In senior football, they will play against men who, at times, they won’t be able to shift. Physically, they will be too strong and too big for them, so you then have to adapt and come up with different skills to overcome that.

“It is those sorts of skills and that learning process for them that I think has been invaluable.

“When they play in the reserves and against professionals, at least they have one or two of those skills in their armoury to try to utilise to make sure they perform well in that environment as well.”

Former Grimsby, Blackpool and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Groves added: “I have seen a number of teams in the Wessex League and a few games in the Southern League, and there is a difference with the jump up in level.

“For our lads, taking into account the second years in terms of their development, there are the odd minuses along the way, although you do struggle to find them, but there are so many pluses for them to go out and develop in that environment.

“The Wessex League and Southern League have been very good for them for that.”