SIMON RUSK has told his Albion under-23s they need to grab every opportunity with both hands.

Eight of the 12 under-23s who were involved in the Carabao Cup defeat against Aston Villa started Tuesday night’s 2-0 win away at Southend in the Trophy.

Head coach Rusk has stressed to his side that these senior opportunities will not come around often.

He said: “As under-23 players I’ve said it might take another 12 months before they get anywhere near it again. That is the reality.

“But when it comes you have got to be ready to take it and sometimes that is through good form, sometimes that is through someone else’s misfortune.

“Whenever it comes you have got to take it and that is really the key.”

The youngsters maintained their 100% start in the Trophy with a convincing 2-0 victory at League One Southend United.

Rusk’s side have now beaten two League One outfits and he has seen 12 of his squad involved in the Carabao Cup.

He reckons the experience will stand his players in good stead for the future.

He said: “All the games offer different types of challenges and I think it’s really valuable.

“Obviously, the opportunity which came for some of the dressing room against Aston Villa the other night was a fantastic opportunity for them.

“With our group you know you are going to have good performances, you know you are going to have bad performances and you are going to have bad results sometimes as well.

“But it is not about focusing on the result, or the actual debut, it is about what feedback you got, what did you learn from it and how are you going to move forward with it.

“These games are no different from that. We and the players review them and we will ask them to question ‘how did I play’ and ‘how do I get better?’. That is what the age group is about.”

Two of Rusk’s under-23s, striker Aaron Connolly and the versatile Steven Alzate, have become regulars in the first team and examples to be looked up to by their peers.

He said: “That is a very natural thing to do. It is nice that Steven and Aaron have got in and around it.

“Obviously, that will naturally give the rest of the group belief but really it is down to them and their standards.

“It’s down to how hard they apply themselves or how hard they want to work. Ultimately that is the thing we encourage, that the players reflect upon themselves.”