More young blood could be on its way to the Gladiators’ ranks if the trajectory of improvement is upheld by the youth set-up.
The feeling of seeing a youngster come through a club’s ranks and make it in the first team is undoubtedly one of the most pleasing things to watch as a fan – although this feeling hasn’t been all too familiar with Matlock Town fans in years gone by.
However after Max Hunt became the first academy graduate in ten years to join the first team squad more homegrown players could be following in the not too distant future.
One of which being promising 17-year-old forward Billy Whitehead, who is fast becoming one of the academy’s hottest prospects.
Whitehead is an intelligent and quick player with smart finish to boot. His ability to peel from defenders and find the space to score is quickly pushing the prolific striker through the youth ranks.
He starred for the Reserves in their recent 3-0 thrashing of Holbrook St. Michaels, bagging a goal and a Man of the Match award as Whitehead continued to cement his place with the Reserves.
In fact the name may ring a bell with Town fans as the young Gladiator featured in Matlock’s pre-season game against Chesterfield.
Whitehead said: “It was a good experience for me. I was running round in circles for a long time but I was giving it my all and it was really good, I really appreciated the chance to play.
“Obviously you feel nervous when you play (a debut for the first team), there’s a lot of expectation on you and you’ve got a lot of people watching, but you’ve just got to go out and do your thing.
“The manager said ‘it was alright, good effort, good running’ because I was just running around for ages, but it was good, I enjoyed it. It was a loss, 4-0 I think, but you can’t win them all,” Whitehead jokingly continued.
Billy was the top scorer for the academy last season and the young Gladiator has already bagged over ten goals this term as he builds towards his hope for first team involvement.
“Over the season I want to play for the Reserves, get starting every week and then I hope first team training. Hopefully that can be done.
“I’ve got to keep scoring and it’s as long as the season takes really, I’m not sure. Maybe towards the end of this season you never know really,” Whitehead added.
Whitehad is now in his second year at Matlock, having previously only played at Sunday League level his progression in the space of a year at the club gives testament to the work going on in the academy from staff and coaches.
He added: “Last year it was a bit tense, because it’s your first year and you’ve got to try and make yourself known but I feel like I’ve got my ground a bit more now so I feel more comfortable. I feel like the coaches are developing my ability and it’s all good from there.
“They’re good with motivation, they’re good at getting you places, they’re good at everything really. It just feels like a big family so it’s nice to be here.”
Pic cap: Billy is pictured receiving last season’s academy top scorer award from ex-Premier League player Craig Short and Rotherham United COO Paul Douglas.