UNDER-18s head coach John Perkins says he is looking forward to working with the new intake of Academy scholars after eleven youngsters put pen-to-paper on two-year deals at the Britannia Stadium last week.
Following their introduction to the Academy on a full time basis by Chief Executive Tony Scholes and Academy Director Dave Wright, the youngsters will link up with the experienced youth coach for the next couple of years as they continue their development at the Club.
Perkins revealed to Stoke City Player after the event that it is an exciting time but warned that the hard work was only just about to begin if the group are to progress to the very top.
"It's a great time for the new scholars to come into the Club and they will be working full time trying to develop as young players," Perkins said.
"I always look forward to working with players of this age and have done for many, many years.
"It's an exciting age when they learn what full time professional football is all about and all the encounters it brings.
"The hard work starts now for them and it's going to be a hard road with a lot of strings to go up on the ladder to reach the first team.
"They will come up against challenges this coming season which they haven't faced before, with the first to try and earn a place in the youth team which will only be done on merit.
"They'll come into a squad of 20 odd players so they won't be guaranteed a game every Saturday unless they warrant it."
With a heavy focus on the development of the Club's youngsters and a desire to move players to the next level when it is deemed right, Perkins believes the new intake are entering the perfect environment to pursue a career in the game.
"Last year we moved quite a few of the lads up to Glyn Hodges' Under-21s team which obviously gave a chance to the younger players in the squad," said Perkins.
"Overall they coped well with a hard task, but it doesn't mean to say that they can't meet the challenge because we saw an Under-16 play and score for the Under-21s last season.
"I think it a great situation for them to be in by being able to see that there is a pathway for them to progress if they deserve it."