The newly-formed Mansfield Town U21s side could be the making of teenage midfielder Joe Fitzpatrick.
The 18-year-old has flirted with the first team over the past two seasons, but only been able to make three appearances and, with no reserve team, has had to play his football out on loan at clubs like Mickleover Sports and Carlton Town.
In seasons past, Fitzpatrick might have found himself released this summer, but Stags boss Adam Murray knows his potential and was delighted last week to name him as one of the club’s four players to remain as part of the new U21 set-up that will play reserve league football next season.
The club will keep four youngsters on every year and the U21s will now give Fitzpatrick added time to develop in men’s football alongside keeper Adam Bishop, central midfielder Tyler Blake, and left-sided defender/midfielder Louis Danquah.
“We’ve managed to keep Joe Fitzpatrick in that group, which I am chuffed with as Joe, like Corbin Shires, had a season where he didn’t come to the party until Christmas,” said boss Murray.
“That was down to a whole lot of things. He was going through a new challenge in terms of the group he was in. It was a lot tougher this year to get into that first team squad.
“So to keep Joe and give him that U21 place is big for us as I’ve still got massive hopes for Joe.
“He is a very good footballer and with this extra couple of years in the U21s environment, he will still be in and around us. He will still train with us and have the opportunity to get into the first team squad.”
Murray is excited about the current crop of youth, adding: “Bishop has been brilliant this season, he’s come on in leaps and bounds.
“We are now looking at progressing them. I am really excited about the kids next year.
“We saw Zayn (Hakeem) come on in the last game of the season. We have Jason Law yet to get involved.
“The first year scholars coming in next season are very strong. They are only 15/16-year-olds, but we’ll be looking to get them involved as much as we can as we feel they are a very strong group.
“We are over the moon with the U21s and the players we’ve managed to get into that group.
“Now it will be a massive job for the chosen manager to take that on.”