Nathan Collins has the chance to make a statement that makes sure he is not just making a fleeting appearance back in the Stoke City starting XI, says Liam Lawrence.
The 18-year-old has been recalled to start for the first time in the Championship since August as Stoke take on Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
He had impressed in the FA Cup at Brentford last month and again with cameos from the bench in recent weeks, including wins over West Brom and Cardiff.
James Chester, who had not played in the league for a year at Aston Villa due to injury before joining Stoke on loan at the end of last month, is rested and named among the substitutes.
Liam Lawrence, on Radio Stoke duty this evening, said: “Chester’s been rested. He’s not played an awful lot of football this season so it makes sense – and it’s a good chance for Collins to come in and make a statement.
“I’ve been calling for him to play most of the season so it’ll be interesting to see him tonight.”
He adds: “It could go either way with some people that age but Nathan Collins has got a very level head. He was captain for one game at a very young age. You don’t give the captaincy to someone that young without him having a good head on his shoulders.
“I don’t think he would have been fazed by this relegation battle and don’t think he will be tonight.”
Stoke are hoping to record back-to-back wins and put distance between themselves and the bottom three – and build on a clean sheet they picked up against Cardiff at the weekend.
They had let in four in both of their last two away games, losses at Derby County and Queens Park Rangers.
Assistant manager Billy McKinlay said: “James has come from Aston Villa and played three games the week before last, which was a heavy schedule – he’s not done that for a while. It would have been the same this week so that was the main reasons behind the thinking.
“Nathan has been doing really well for us. In a number of games he’s come on and closed things out for us, for want of a better phrase. At West Brom in particular and on Saturday as well.
“He’s training well and he’s a young player with plenty of potential. We’ve got no qualms about putting him in tonight.”