‘Best in the country’ - Bristol City defender on stellar academy pathway and ambitions after Walsall loan

Joe Low has praised Bristol City’s academy and has spoken out on his aspirations for when he returns from his loan at Walsall

Joe LowJoe Low
Joe Low

Bristol City defender Joe Low believes the Robins’ academy is among the most elite in the country and has stated his desire to become an important member of Nigel Pearson’s squad when he returns from his loan at Walsall.

The 21-year-old is one of several young talents to come through the ranks at BS3 in recent times, along with Alex Scott, Tommy Conway and Sam Bell.

Low joined the Saddlers in January in a deal until the end of the season, after his first-team opportunities were limited at Ashton Gate.

Having seen numerous young players progress through the age groups at the West Country side, the defender revealed just how highly he rates City’s pathway for their youthful talent. “Bristol City is definitely up there with one of the best academies in the country in terms of players coming through,” he said.

“If you look at the team sheets, every week we’ve got loads of academy graduates playing in our first team so there’s a great pathway through. For Alex (Scott), he just went straight up it, he thrived and took his opportunities when they came, Alex has done really well.”

Omar Taylor-Clarke recently made his first start for the Robins in their 2-0 defeat to Swansea City on Sunday, following several impressive cameo appearances.

The 19-year-old may have a big part to play for the remainder of the campaign, as City’s injury troubles in midfield continue to exacerbate.

While Low is yet to make the breakthrough into his parent club’s senior squad on a regular basis, he is motivated by seeing his peers do just that, such as fellow Welshman Taylor-Clarke. The Walsall loanee is more driven than ever to follow suit when he returns to City in the summer.

He explained: “There are a lot of lads who are around a similar age to me, I could list them all but we’d be here for a while, that have all inspired me and I think they should all be very proud of themselves with what they’re doing. When my time comes, I would like to grasp it and make the most of it.”

Making the transition from Under-21s football into senior football can often prove difficult for young players, and it is only through consistent first-team action that youngsters make that progression. Low wasn’t getting that at City, and opened up on how his move to Walsall came about.

“I was always open to the move, there were quite a lot of conversations between the manager and staff and we all just felt it was the right time for it to happen,” he said.

“Every week, every game, every training session, you’re learning little things and the more you can get into these first-team environments and be exposed to different challenges, the more you learn, so it was definitely a good decision.”

Low has featured 10 times in all competitions for the Saddlers, nine times in League Two and once against Premier League side Leicester City in Walsall’s fourth-round FA Cup defeat.

He is eager to make the most of the rest of his time at the Midlands club, but once more urged his tenacity to earn a spot in City’s senior side.

“The plan for me is to go back to the club, it’s a club I’ve been at since I was a young lad, and try and get into that first team to be a part of Nigel Pearson’s squad.”

Currently, the Robins are thin on numbers at the back. With Rob Atkinson ruled out for at least the next six months with an ACL injury, as well as Tomas Kalas’ persistent injury troubles, Pearson’s side have just one fit senior centre back in Zak Vyner.

While Atkinson’s injury is extremely unfortunate, Low talked about how chances can appear when least expected. “These opportunities can come around in that way and it’s horrible to say, but sometimes it’s how young lads can break through into first teams. It’s just a case of, no matter how you get your opportunity, you take it and keep hold of the shirt.”