Another one of our rising stars who has frequently trained with the first team squad is Charlie Winfield, who will turn 18 in May.
The versatile youngster has made quite an impression at academy level in recent years and, although a regular for Tom Harban in our U18s set-up, has also featured a number of times with Martin Devaney’s U23s side.
Taking part in the senior sessions is always a productive learning curve for any fledgling footballer, and it’s certainly something that Winfield is keen to experience more of.
“It’s good; physically more demanding, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” began ‘Chaz’. “You can learn from the first team players, what they do and how I can implement it into my game. In training, if you do something well, they’ll encourage you and that will give you a boost to keep trying things to impress.”
In Adam Murray, there is a familiar face amongst Gerhard Struber’s coaching staff who is always willing to provide encouragement to the younger players.
The Reds’ First Team Coach used to oversee the development of our U18s in his previous role at the club, and Winfield is grateful for the guidance he continues to provide.
“It’s the same as last year; always positive, always joking around with you,” continued the 17-year-old. “He makes you feel welcome and comfortable, which helps to put you at ease and settle in – you’re not going up there on your own: you know him. If you don’t understand the drill or something like that, you can ask him and he’ll explain.
“I feel like I play a bit better because I take less touches and move it quicker, but I don’t feel out of place while I’m up there training. I can use the experience that I’ve learnt with the first team with the under 18s and under 23s.”
Although he is yet to be involved in a senior matchday squad, Winfield is still hopeful of getting his opportunity in the future.
He uses his young teammates as inspiration, with fellow U18s Brad Binns, Jordan Helliwell and Aiden Marsh having all been part of a travelling set-up this season.
“If they can do it, why can’t I do it?” reasoned Winfield. “I’m close with them all as well, so it helps to push you on.
“That’s what I’m hoping for and pushing for. I’m just trying to stay fit because I get a quite a lot of injuries, but I’m working hard and keeping my head down but, if I do get that chance, I want to step up and take it.”
Capable of playing in central midfield or at left-back, Winfield was asked to step in in an unfamiliar right-back role in his last outing for our U23s, replacing the injured Helliwell against Sheffield United.
It was another indication of his tremendous versatility, and he looked more than competent as he burst down the flank to play a crucial role in the opening goal of the evening in the South Yorkshire derby.
“It was a tough game to come into as well; it’s hard to get into a game when you come off the bench,” admitted the youngster. “But it gives you that confidence and helps you settle into the game, knowing that I can still play to the pace of the game.
“If Tom or Martin need me to play a certain position, I know I can play that and still do a job. I think it shows the qualities that I have, and it helps knowing that I was trusted to play right-back even though it’s not my natural position.”