New Bolton Wanderers manager Keith Hill says he will protect the “special group” of young players that helped ensure the survival of the crisis club.
Bolton have relied on youth players in their opening six games, with just five senior professionals contracted to the club before last week’s takeover.
Hill, named as boss on Saturday, made nine deadline-day additions on Monday.
“You could ruin a team of 18-year-olds with what’s happened to them,” said Hill. “They showed tremendous courage.”
The 50-year-old succeeded Phil Parkinson as Trotters manager, the latter having been forced to depend on youngsters in every game he was in charge of this season before resigning on 22 August.
Parkinson fielded Bolton’s youngest ever team, with a starting line-up with an average age of 19, as they held Coventry to a goalless draw in their second match.
Before his final match in charge, a 5-0 defeat at Tranmere, he said the club had contacted the English Football League over welfare concerns.
Bolton subsequently postponed a midweek League One match against Doncaster because of those concerns, with Parkinson then quitting as manager days later.
‘We are going to war’
Hill said the recruitment drive overseen by the new owners, which started with the return of of experienced ex-Liverpool and Leicester City defender Jack Hobbs before Saturday’s 5-0 defeat by Gillingham, will ensure the club can properly develop its youth players again.
However, in his first news conference since being appointed, Hill said a young side will again be fielded in Tuesday’s EFL Trophy group game against Bradford City.
But he told BBC Radio Manchester: “It’s time for them to be rewarded by the recruitment that we have done for support.
“I’m a big advocate of bringing young players through, I love developing players, but I need to be able to protect young players. They are at the stage now that they need protection and that means rest, recovery and a pat on the back.
“Now let’s learn from the five games played and let’s put a plan in process to develop them individually instead of trying to develop a team of 18-year-olds together. That is what you have to do.”
He continued: “It is a big assessment, a mental eventuation for those players, but we do not want to mentally ruin that group because they are special.”
Hill said that the rest of the season for him, assistant David Flitcroft and their new-look squad, will be like “going to war”.
Bolton are bottom of League One on minus 11 points after starting the season with a 12-point deduction, and their defeat by Gillingham was their third in a row in the league by a 5-0 scoreline.
“We are the generals and we are planning for war,” Hill added.
“We are in the bunker, planning and mapping out – ‘right, we need all these players to be in that war with us’, and they will be. They have come from every walk of football.”