ALAN McLoughlin stands by his belief that promising defender Joe Romanski has what it takes to taste success at first team level, two years after the thought first crossed his mind.

The U18s coach was without the teenager for his side's 3-1 win at Luton in their opening Merit League One fixture due to Romanski's commitments with David Flitcroft's promotion chasing first team.

Saturday marked the third time Romanski appeared on the bench for Town, but Flitcroft is yet to play the academy product.

"Whether anyone is brave enough to throw him in a first team game situation is to be seen," said McLoughlin.

"Joe's a very good player. Physically he can cope with situations.

"He's inexperienced but you don't until you throw him in the mix.

"A couple of years ago I remember watching him in a training session and thinking to myself 'he'll make it'.

"I stand by that. He's still got a lot to learn and has played a handful of reserve games."

Saturday's win at Luton for the U18s provided McLoughlin's men with the perfect start to their Merit League One campaign.

The youth team earned their spot in the highest tier of the Merit League after finishing in the top half (3rd) of the Youth Alliance Southwest Division.

It means Town's youngsters will face the likes Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Bournemouth in an 11-game league.

Stevenage, who defeated Bournemouth 5-1 in their opening fixture, provide the opposition this weekend.

And McLoughlin is ready for a physical battle.

He said: "Stevenage were a competitive side when we last played them.

"I'm expecting a physical game but also anticipate our boys to make a good account of themselves.

"We have a winning mentality.

"To qualify behind Bournemouth is a fantastic achievement when you consider the resources they have.

"Progress in the team has been significant. Young players will make errors but what we've achieved so far this season has been good.

"I can recall one game this year where the attitude wasn't there. We played Newport away and it was a cold, wet, miserable afternoon.

"Otherwise the willingness to train has been very good.

"For any scholar it will take time for them to understand what it takes to be a professional footballer."

McLoughlin also revealed he is unaware of the number of youth players Swindon Town will offer professional contracts to ahead of the new season.

He added: "Players know they have to earn their stripes.

"At the moment the club isn't at the stage where its decided how many professionals to take on next year.

"The second years are getting anxious, but until we know as a club how many can be accepted we'll have to wait."