A regular dose of League Two has toughened up Matty Dolan for the challenge of establishing a place in City’s midfield.
That’s the belief of skipper Gary Jones, who has been impressed with his young partner in the club’s engine room.
Nathan Doyle returned to action at Rotherham last week but Dolan retained his place as Phil Parkinson opted to play the extra man in the middle.
Parkinson may revert back to two central players against Peterborough this evening but a run of seven starts from the last eight games has given the 21-year-old a platform to stake a claim for a first-choice role in the future.
Dolan, who will make his loan stay permanent in the summer, arrived at Valley Parade in January after spending the first half of the season with Hartlepool.
And Jones can see the benefits of that week in, week out involvement in the basement division.
He said: “Everyone has seen that he’s a good player. He’s a good young footballer who has come in and done a decent job for us.
“Matty’s got that bit of quality about him. He has a good left foot and has fitted in great.
“I’ve been round the block a few times and it’s good to see young players come through, especially from Middlesbrough where it’s a tough place.
“But Matty’s already been at Hartlepool this season and that’s a good learning curve for him.
“It’s vital for every young footballer to do that. Playing reserve and youth team football is no comparison to doing it for the first team.”
Nobody in the City ranks has more experience of basement-division football than Jones. It is an uncompromising world but he believes there is no better place for a youngster like Dolan to cut their teeth in the senior game.
Jones added: “Some people have this perception that I’m playing for a Championship or Premier League club and I’ll just waltz into League Two and be the best player.
“It just doesn’t work like that and you see many players get found out.
“In League Two football, you’ve got a lot of people on one-year contracts. They’ve got mortgages and their livelihoods are on the line.
“You’ve got that pressure all the time. Every Saturday or Tuesday they play, it could be their last game.
“The further you go down the leagues, there are so many players out of contract it’s frightening. I think there were over 600 last season.
“Nobody wants to drop out so it’s a cut-throat business. For the younger players, it is a real eye-opener playing in that but it has got to be good for them in the long run.”