First-year scholar Jarrad Branthwaite agreed his first professional contract still aged just 16 on Monday night, having impressed the first team coaching staff through the early part of this year.
Academy boss Darren Edmondson spoke to us about the achievement earlier today.
“It’s great news and another good statement from the football club on the policy of continuing to bring our own players through,” he said. “Jarrad has been with us for such a long time and we’ll hopefully have others doing the same thing in the not too distant future.
“Things like this matter for the growth of the club. Jarrad is the next one to make it this far, and he’s done it by being consistent all the way through the age groups.”
“Getting players like Liam [McCarron] and Jarrad through is a huge pat on the back to every coach that’s worked with them over the years,” he added. “All of the other scholars should see this as a huge plus. It shows the need to keep working really hard every single day, and to make sure you take the opportunity to impress when it comes along.
“It doesn’t matter whether you sign your contract early, or on the last day, it’s all about reaching that successful end goal. If you’re being the best you can be every day, on and off the field, you can’t be asked for any more than that.
“The need is there for them all to settle into their jobs quickly, both mentally and physically, and, if they do, they’ll find that they’re getting noticed, which is ultimately what it’s all about.”
“You can’t escape from the fact this is a tough industry, but the rewards are great if you do things well,” he added. “Liam and Jarrad have applied themselves to that principle and they’re an example of what can happen if you do your job in a way that ticks the boxes with all of your coaching staff.
“It shows that as a club we’re still striving to produce our own. Over the next two years we’ll see others from this group being rewarded, and it’ll happen for some quicker than it does for others.
“It doesn’t mean it will never happen, for those boys who are still waiting, and that’s why they have to react positively and continuously show their own skills and attributes. They can see now that the door is open, so it’s up to them to make sure they push themselves through it.”
On what the signing of the deal means to the young defender, he commented: “The main thing for him is that it will mean he’s emotionally and mentally in a very good place.
“We have to harness that to turn it into even more of a positive, not just for him, but for every player currently in our academy system.
“It goes without saying we’re all delighted for him. His size and frame have meant that he’s had to cope with a few periods where he picked up injuries, but he’s learning to manage his body and he now knows how to strengthen himself better. That’s an ongoing process.
“He’s made sure that he’s demonstrated his footballing ability to the first team staff and that’s brought to him to where he is now. This is the start of the real journey for him and he knows that he has to be even more consistent, and that he needs to raise his game again.
“I don’t see him having too many issues with keeping his feet on the ground at all. He’s a bright kid and he’s already very level headed. I’ve spoken to his dad a lot since I came to the club and I know he won’t allow Jarrad to get too carried away with himself anyway.”
And on already having seen two players from the current group of 18 make it through, with hopefully more to come before the season is done, he said: “As an academy we do struggle, not just for the coaching base but for the player base.
“We cover a big area but it’s a low population, but this shows that the players are out there, as they always have been.
“Good Cumbrian players will come through the system if you work hard at finding them and the, once you have, on developing the potential that’s there. Let’s hope we go on to find the next one, and then the one after that, very quickly.”