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Having been the odd one out last week, and left with no game, the under-21s will kick off their 2023/24 season this afternoon with an away game against Millwall.

As always at the start of a season, there are changes to Andy Farrell’s squad. A number of players left at the end of last season which included such as Kade Ratchford, Seb Thompson and Ne-Jai Tucker who had all been regular players. Some of those who were in the under-18s have stepped up for this season but, to date, the only newcomer is Basilio Rieno Socoliche (pictured) who has been signed from Crystal Palace.

This will be our second season in the Professional Development League since we lost our Category One status and last season ended with us in fifth place in the north group of the league. Although we finished a massive 22 points behind winners Sheffield United, we were only four points behind the next two in the league, Hull and Wigan. Sheffield United had a massive 60 points but that was bettered by the south group champions, today’s opponents Millwall who won their league with one point more although just eight points clear of second place Bristol City.

This is a fixture we’ve not come out of too well in previous seasons in this league and we are still to record a win against them. In the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, our first two in the Professional Development League, we were beaten 2-1, the first time away from home and the second time at home, our only home game against them, with Tinashe Chakwana scoring our goal in both of those games.

In 2019/20 we won our only point against them with a 1-1 away draw when Bobby Thomas, who played his only first team game for Burnley at Millwall, scored or goal. Last season, the game ended in a 1-0 loss against a very experienced Millwall side; they included Bartosz Bialkowski, Scott Malone, George Evans, Shaun Hutchinson, Mason Bennett and Tyler Burey in their team.

We fielded a trialist in that most recent game against them who, at the time, was believed, and correctly so, to be Socoliche. Looking back now at that day, it gave a real clue as to which players might be released at the end of last season. Of the squad that day, only Wiktor Gromek is no longer with us and he left having opted to take up an offer with us rather than sign a new deal at Burnley.

The Burnley team was: Dennis Franchi, Alex Healy-Byrne, Dan Sassi, Jack Turner (Gabriel Otegbayo 84), Brad Grant, Basilio Socoliche – Trialist (Joe Ashton 84), Will Hugill, Jez Davies (Wiktor Gromek 84), Marcel Lewis (Renaldo Torraj 8), Tom Tweedy, Joe Westley. Subs: Harry Moss, Gabriel Otegbayo, Joe Ashton, Wiktor Gromek, Renaldo Torraj.

Today’s game will be played at Millwall’s training ground and kicks off at 2 p.m.

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