Colchester United academy boss Tony Humes believes the club’s young academy stars have earned their chance to shine for the first team.

Sammie Szmodics became the latest youngster to make his League One debut for the U’s, after appearing as a substitute in their 1-1 draw at Bristol City last weekend.

Szmodics follows in the footsteps of players such as Alex Gilbey, Tosin Olufemi and Freddie Ladapo in progressing from Colchester’s youth ranks to represent the senior team.

And with more youngsters like Jordan Sanderson, Michael O’Donoghue and Jack Simmons named in Joe Dunne’s squad over recent weeks, academy manager Humes is pleased as punch.

Humes said: “It’s great - that’s what the Academy is there for.

“I’m very pleased for the boys themselves, because they’re the ones who have the talent.

“The good work of the staff helps to nurture those talents but the boys are the ones who get there on their own merits.

“The one thing that typifies most of the kids we have is their work ethic and how hard they push themselves to get to that level.

“We want the boys to push on and progress.

“The manager makes the decision to put them into the first-team squad.

“We’ve said for a couple of years now that we have young players with potential and lots of ability.

“But ultimately, the test is to have the correct mentality and strength of character when they get to that senior level.

“We’re trying to underpin the professional side of the game and support it by bringing young players through.

“That’s done through the dedication and support that the chairman and the club have put into the Academy and now it’s starting to pay dividends.”

Meanwhile, Humes says Szmodics will be hungry for more first-team action after making his first senior U’s appearance against Bristol City.

The attacking midfielder, a second-year trainee who has been offered a professional development contract by the U’s, came on as a late substitute at Ashton Gate.

Humes said: “Sammie has had a taste of League One football now and he’s the type of character who wants more.

“The manager will decide whether or not that’s the case but he’s an ambitious young man.

“Sammie is Colchester through and through - he’s been at the club since under-nine level and he’s progressed all the way up.

“He’s gained success at his town club and he has a strong character.

“He will push himself as hard as he can and I think he’s a great role model for the schoolboy players coming through.

“What he needs to do now is carry on what he’s been doing and developing his game.

“Sammie’s an intelligent boy and an intelligent footballer and he should stay focused.”

PLAYERS TO MAKE THEIR SENIOR LEAGUE DEBUTS FOR COLCHESTER UNITED UNDER JOE DUNNE: Alex Gilbey (v Oldham Athletic, December 8, 2012) Freddie Ladapo (v Brentford, December 26, 2012) Billy Clifford (v Scunthorpe United, January 12, 2013) Bradley Garmston (v Sheffield United, February 16, 2013) Tosin Olufemi (v Bury, March 2013) Mason Spence (v Coventry City, September 8, 2013) Daniel Pappoe (v Bradford City, September 14, 2013) Conor Hubble (v Crawley Town, September 21, 2013) Sammie Szmodics (v Bristol City, September 28, 2013)