BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Gary Rowett has emphatically dismissed any suggestion that Romain Esse will be loaned out this season.
The 18-year-old attacker impressed for Millwall in a central midfield role in the opening 45 minutes of Saturday’s friendly win at Gillingham.
Esse, capped by England at U18 level, made 12 Championship appearances in the previous campaign.
And Rowett instantly shut down any talk that the prospect would be heading away from SE16 as part of his development.
“I can be accused of many things – but that much stupidity would be pushing, it even for me,” Rowett told the South London Press.
“I’ve worked with a lot of young players before and their very first steps are that you involve them around the first team and any appearance they get is a bonus – it’s more a feeling of being with a team and what it looks like. He had that last season.
“He had times when he came off the bench and did really well and he had times he came off the bench and didn’t impact it as much as you’d like – but that is what the process is all about.
“We’re trying to get into the Premier League, at the same time, which is never an easy balance.
“With the experience Rom’s had with England coupled with a chance over the summer to physically develop a little bit, by having three or four weeks where he doesn’t play, the hope is that he comes back in pre-season and he’s another level on again. We’ve seen that so far. It doesn’t mean he is going to go and play every game for us but he is a very, very serious contender for our team.
“We want to find a way where a young player like Rom has the chance to develop and make mistakes in our first team, while we try and win games of football. A lot of managers will just go with senior players, where they know what they will get all the time.
“We’re trying to find that balance. We did the same with Billy (Mitchell). Danny (McNamara) was a little bit different. Tyler (Burey) when he first came into the team had a similar sort of situation. We’ve got the same with young Niino (Adom-Malaki), who could be in the same position.”
Rowett told our paper at the weekend that he felt Esse’s future position could be more central.
The player, who is represented by Wilfried Zaha’s brother Herve, signed a long-term professional contract in January.
“Rom is a special young talent,” said Rowett. “We’ve got to develop that next little bit, which is impacting league football at Championship level. That is difficult for a senior player to do – let alone a young player. But he has got the ability and attitude.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in the first-team now. However, the Championship is a very physical league.
“In some ways, if he was playing in another league in Europe it might be less physical and his technicality would get him in the team straight away – 100 per cent.
“The Championship is a very different animal. It is one of the most intense and physical leagues in the world. So he has to be able to cope with some of that alongside his technical ability.
“He is learning that and getting better at it all the time.”
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