Steve Stone admitted he couldn’t have asked for anymore from schoolboy striker Lewis Richardson after his debut hat-trick helped propel the Clarets into the final of the Lancashire FA Senior Cup.
Richardson came off the bench to score all three of Burnley’s second-half goals as the Clarets finally saw off the challenge of Rochdale to secure a 6-4 win and a final date with local rivals Blackburn Rovers.
The England under-16 international – on his half-term holidays – scored twice within the space of three minutes moments after coming on at the break and then completed his treble with a classy finish a couple of minutes from the end of a landmark first appearance at this level.
“It’s a massive positive,” said Stone, whose side extended their winning streak to six games in all competitions.
“I’ve seen his talent in training in the last couple of days and I always wondered whether he could handle the physicality of an under-23s game.
“That was more physical and he handled it no problem.
“He used his body really well to protect the ball and his awareness and his runs are really good as well.
“That’s why we gave him the opportunity to go and have a go. He’s scored goals at every level on the way up and you just wonder how far he’s going to go.”
Academy youngster Richardson, 16, made his first start at Under-18 level only last November, scoring five times on his debut, and also came off the bench for the youth team in their win over Leeds United on Tuesday.
“It’s important we have accelerated development and I’m all about that and giving youngsters a chance,” added Stone.
“Why wait until next year or the year after? Why wait until he’s in the building? Why not give him a go now?
“That’s what I’m all about, so that was the reasoning behind it.
“I wouldn’t have minded if he hadn’t scored any goals. I just wanted him to have a feel and go and enjoy it with no pressure.
“It’s really early days for him, but you couldn’t ask any more. We’re always looking for someone to come along and catch our eye.”
Dan Agyei also scored twice, and Bobby Thomas claimed the other goal as the Clarets set up their meeting with Rovers’ under-23 side at a venue and date to be confirmed.
Stone wasn’t completely happy with his side’s performance given their defensive generosity and lack of work-rate at certain times.
But he is urging them to now take the opportunity to win some silverware.
“That’s what I talked about before the game. It’s a final,” added the Under-23s’ boss , whose side is also still in contention in the Premier League Cup and the Professional Development League.
“You won’t get many finals in your professional career because of the way football is and the amount you can’t win.
“This is an opportunity now for the boys to get themselves up for then, to win a final and look back in years to come and remember it.
“Hopefully they’ll get themselves up for it no problem and they will go and do something special for their careers.”