Harrogate Town's academy aces won't be getting 'carried away' after first-team debuts

Paul Stansfield was thrilled to see four of his academy players included in Harrogate Town’s first-team squad on Tuesday night, but insisted that nobody at the club will be getting “carried away” with their progress.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 8:21 am
Updated Thursday, 7th October 2021, 8:22 am
A number of Harrogate Town's academy footballers were called up to Simon Weaver's first-team squad for Tuesday's EFL Trophy clash with Newcastle United Under-21s. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

Emanuel Ilesanmi, Mason Wilson, Brad Williams and Ben Tweed were all named on Simon Weaver’s substitutes’ bench as the Sulphurites beat Newcastle United Under-21s 2-0 in the EFL Trophy.

Striker Ilesanmi made history when he became the first graduate of Town’s academy – which was only launched this summer – to appear for the first team, replacing Jack Muldoon on 83 minutes. He was later followed on to the pitch by midfield duo Williams and Tweed.

And while he was naturally pleased to see his three 16-year-old charges given a first taste of senior football, academy chief Stansfield warned that none of his players can afford to lose focus

Brad Williams warms up at the EnviroVent Stadium.

“I’m delighted for the lads, they’ve worked really hard for their opportunity on Tuesday night, but then so have all of my players this season,” he told the Harrogate Advertiser.

“On this occasion it was these four who got the chance. Now they’ve had a taste, the challenge is for them to keep doing well and see if they can earn another call-up from Simon.

“It’s good to have a clear pathway to the first team. It’s good for these lads to be able to see that if they’re playing well, working hard and have the right attitude then they can progress.

“It’s great for all the young lads, us as staff, the club as a whole, but we can’t get carried away. It was a few minutes each for those players, that’s all it was.

“As far as I’m concerned, Tuesday is done now. We won’t be talking about it when we train on Thursday. All my focus and all the players’ focus has to be on making sure we are prepared for Salford City this Saturday, because if it’s not, we’ll get beat.”

Ilesanmi, who has a huge presence about him for a teenager, made the biggest impact of the three Town youngsters who featured against the Magpies, going close to adding a third goal of the evening with an acrobatic efforts just moments after entering the fray.

“He’s very talented, he’s physically imposing and a super lad who works really, really hard,” Stansfield added.

“He’s got natural ability and the physique, he has loads of potential, but he still has an awful lot still to do – the same goes for all of these lads.

“Emmanuel is one of a number of boys who took our eye at the very first trial. He hasn’t played at an academy before, he was playing locally up in Middlesbrough, which did come as a bit of a surprise, but there’s always a reason.

“And it doesn’t matter what’s gone before or happened in the past, it’s about the future and all of these lads are at a club where they’ve got a real opportunity to go on and realise their potential.”

Reflecting on being able to give Ilesanmi, Williams and Tweed their debuts, first-team boss Weaver said: “The prospect of having first-team players who have come through our structure is just the icing on the cake in terms of being a Football League club, trying to establish ourselves and have a future full of young lads coming through.

“That is the dream and it’s one step towards that dream tonight. It’s a massive moment seeing those three lads on the pitch. The reaction of the crowd was magical.

“I think you could see from the crowd’s reaction just what it means to have an academy backing us up.

“It was also great to see those lads’ faces when their names were sung by the crowd at the end. It was just amazing.”