Bolton man Nigel Reo-Coker believes his former club Aston Villa are asking a lot of their young players as they bid to avoid Premier League relegation this season.
The midfielder returned to Villa Park on Tuesday night to captain the Trotters to a 2-1 victory which could prove decisive in the race to avoid the drop.
Owen Coyle's side now sit just three points behind 15th-placed Villa with a game in hand as the scrap for survival heats up.
Under-fire Villa boss Alex McLeish, who was booed by the home fans following Tuesday's defeat, is battling an injury crisis and started five academy graduates against Bolton, with another five on the bench.
Reo-Coker, who previously spent four seasons with the Midlanders before moving to the Reebok Stadium last year, believes it is a lot of pressure to pile on the youngsters.
He told the Daily Mirror: "It is a lot to ask of them. People don't understand how intense the Premier League is now. Gone are the days when youngsters can play week in, week out.
"If you look at how Arsenal and Man United do it, you bleed them in, play them for a couple of games, then take them out.
"Youngsters are in there and they're doing the best they can at Villa. The only thing the fans can do is support them, because they're in a difficult situation.
"For them to be in a relegation fight now, it's a new learning experience and it's a lot for young players."
Reo-Coker feels Tuesday's victory was a "massive" result for Bolton as they battle to stay up.
The midfielder also hailed the character of his side after they came from behind through a Martin Petrov penalty and David Ngog's winner.
"This was a big win for us. It was like a cup final," he added in the Daily Star.
"It was a massive win. To show the character we did after going one goal down and equalise straight away.
"But to then take the lead and hold out against a strong barrage at the end...it was great."