A key player faces against a race against time to be fit as Matlock Town Academy prepare to defend their title at a prestigious, international youth tournament.
Highly-rated defender Sam Evans broke his wrist while playing five-a-side football, and now he is desperately hoping the injury won’t rule him out of the Blackpool Cup, which is taking place over the weekend of April 15 and 16.
“I can still train, and I can still do exercise, so I don’t lose my overall fitness,” said the 16-year-old Evans. However, he is yet to find out if the wrist will stand up to a competitive match because Matlock have not had any games since he broke it.
Twelve months ago, the young Gladiators caused a minor sensation when lifting the Blackpool Cup, which attracts youth teams not only representing some of the biggest clubs in England but also sides from across Europe, including Germany, Denmark, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands.
This year’s event takes place at Myerscough College in Preston, and Matlock are keen to record their second triumph in succession, which would be a remarkable achievement considering the acaemy has only been active for just over 18 months.
They are currently in terrific form, which has taken them to the top of their league table, and Evans is regarded as one of the reasons for that, having impressed all at the club since he joined.
“The best part of playing for the Matlock academy has been seeing the development in my game,” he said. “I think I have improved a lot, and you can see that everyone else has improved also, through the training.”
Left-back Evans is full of praise for the quality of the training at the club, and describes the standard of coaching as exceptional.
“The only thing that is missing is a gym facility,” said Evans. “However, if the team were able to get more sponsorship, then they would be more likely to be able to afford one.”
The ambitious teenager is hoping his progress and success at Matlock will help him forge a career out of football, either in the professional game or at a good non-league level. But at present, he has no thoughts about leaving Causeway Lane.
“I’m happy at Matlock,” he said. “It’s a good development side. If I keep pushing and working hard, then maybe I’ll make the first team. But hopefully, I can push into the reserves soon.”
At such a young age, Evans still has the chance to move to other clubs and to explore alternative opportunities, but he added: “There is no reason to leave at the moment. I can see myself continuing to develop and progress here at Matlock.”