Matlock Town Academy product Max Hunt has been linked with a move away from Causeway Lane to Premier League side West Bromwich Albion.
Hunt, who was the first academy graduate in ten years to sign a professional contract with the Gladiators during pre-season, had been on a 10-day trial with the West Midlands club and appeared to have impressed.
The 18-year-old defender featured in the Baggies’ recent Premier League 2 fixture against Middlesbrough, playing just over 80 minutes as they suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat.
During the early stages of this season Belper Town acquired the services of the youngster, where his abilities were recognised by scouts from two Premier League sides and one from the Championship.
The Development manager within the Matlock academy former professional Justin Tellus, said: “It was really pleasing to hear that Max had been spotted by not just West Bromwich Albion but another Premier League club and a Championship club —I always believed in Max,” he said.
“I knew this would happen and it’s happened quite quickly, but I’m not surprised. I did think it would be a Football League club, but I think he’s great and he’s got the ability to make it.
“From the age of 16 his main attributes were always his strength, especially in the air. He doesn’t just meet the ball, he heads through the ball, which is very different to other players.
“He’s two-footed in his distribution, which is very good for a young age.
“We worked on that over his two years here, with coaches like Jamie Yates and Dave Hoole working on that constantly.”
Hunt’s journey through football has not been straight forward, having been part of a youth academy in Chesterfield that folded when he was 16.
Head of development Steve Heath brought Hunt to Matlock, where he could play football while getting an education — and the youngster hasn’t looked back since.
The centre-back’s progression over his two years in the academy is a great testament to the hard work of the youth development programme and coaches.
Tellus said: “We worked with him for his first year here and straight away spotted his attributes.
“He was raw so we tried to nurture those attributes and turn him into a more rounded player.
“In the second year he carried on playing for Matlock Town, but also Mansfield Town came in for him to do joint work with us so he was playing with Mansfield’s youth team and also our reserve team at the same time.
“During that period he developed to get used to adult football.
“He then ended up being our development captain last year and also winning the Blackpool cup twice — and more importantly the Derbyshire Cup with our reserve side, so he’s been on a two-year journey with us and it’s been fantastic to have him.”
The transfer would come as quite a large coup for the club and the deal involved relatively lucrative for Town, which Justin discussed.
“It’s massive for the club and huge for the development system, it just shows the progression, it shows what we’re all about that hard work and dedication by lots of different people.
“Obviously there’s Steve Heath, Jamie Yates, Dave Hoole and a lot of other people that have put a lot of hours in and shown a lot of professionalism to produce these type of players.
“It’s our wish to produce players for our first-team and also to produce players that can go on to the professional level. With Max being from our first group of players, it would be a massive scoop not just for the team and the community but also the Northern Premier League itself.”
The former pro with Europa and Champions League experience also didn’t doubt that there was a wealth of players within the Matlock academy ranks who could follow the same path as Hunt.
Tellus continued: “If I’m honest I do think there are others in the pipeline and there are a few special ones in the new group that we’ve just taken in at under-17s, but it’s down to our coaches and down to the individuals themselves to really work over the two years.
“What we try to do is to give them the foundations to be able to sustain a career in football, and when they get to the end of the two years it’s all about what we’ve done with them and what commitment they’ve put forward — and how will that set the benchmark of where they can play.”