• Sam Byrne

County boss Challinor addresses Edgeley Park future of Premier League loanees

Image credit to Mike Petch

County manager Dave Challinor has challenged youngsters Will Fish and Arjan Raikhy to "stick their heads above the parapet" after addressing the future of the Premier League loan duo at Edgeley Park.

Challinor spoke with the media ahead of Wednesday evening's FA Cup first round replay with League One side Bolton Wanderers - and the Man Utd and Aston Villa loanees have been a hot topic of conversation amongst supporters, with neither able to secure a regular first-team spot under former manager Simon Rusk.

Upon his arrival a fortnight ago as Rusk's replacement, Challinor revealed that the entire squad at Edgeley Park will have a "clean slate" and a chance to cement a spot in the match-day squad and - with nine substitutes able to be named on the bench in FA Cup action - both Raikhy and Fish look set to feature in some way on Wednesday evening.

The pair were named on the bench for the 2-2 tie at the UniBol Stadium in the original tie (Challinor's first game in charge of The Hatters), but missed out in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Bromley in front of the BT Sport cameras.

Fish, a U23 captain at Old Trafford, has missed spells of action due to international duty throughout this season, whilst Raikhy, a highly-rated midfielder at Villa Park who featured for his parent club in last season's FA Cup third round tie with Liverpool, has not featured in league action since coming off in the first-half through illness in a 0-3 home defeat to Yeovil back in September.

Image credit to Mike Petch

And Challinor, looking for his first win back at the club when County come up against The Trotters at a sold-out Edgeley Park on Wednesday, has challenged the pair to stake their claim for a first-team position under his stewardship.

"With Arj and with Will, especially as young players, it's been tough. It's a first loan spell away from their club for both of them, and they'll want to take different things from their time here."

"I've spoken to both of them about taking their opportunity here. With how we want to play and our identity on the pitch, that will - or should - suit them both."

"They really have to stick their head above the parapet and say 'I can do the job you need me to do'. They need to be putting themselves forward and be saying 'I can play in that position for you'."

Challinor has made no secret of the way he wants his sides to play during his time at Edgeley Park, and believes that a possession-based style of football whilst retaining plenty of attacking intent should be an approach which the duo can thrive on.

"We're going to be asking our defenders to get on the ball and be comfortable in possession. That's something that suits Will down to the ground, in terms of his upbringing at United."

"With Arj, he's technically superb and that goes hand-in-hand again with what we want."

Raikhy started the season promisingly under Rusk, earning rave reviews for his performance in the early-season 0-1 win at struggling Southend in particular.

But a bout of illness in the build-up to the Yeovil game, in which Raikhy had already been selected to start, saw the Villa youngster depart after just half an hour, with no league action coming for the 19-year-old since.

Fish started in the 1-3 opening day defeat to Dagenham back in August, with the Man Utd and England youngster struggling up against the experience of Daggers forward Paul McCallum. An eight-minute cameo in a 0-2 win at nine-man Maidenhead in September is Fish's only appearance since.

"When they've both had their opportunities, whether it be because of the team struggling for form at that time, they've both tended to struggle a bit."

"That happens with young players. It is certainly a clean slate for both of them with me, they will have a real opportunity to push themselves forwards. They're in control of that in terms of how they train, which will dictate if and when a chance does come for them. And it's up to them to take those chances."

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