Boss Austin backing Roberts and Whaler to challenge for first team starts

Morgan Roberts has signed a three-year contract at the Cobblers
Morgan Roberts has signed a three-year contract at the Cobblers

Dean Austin believes youth team graduates Morgan Roberts and Sean Whaler are capable of making their mark in the Cobblers first team next season.

The 17-year-old attacking midfielders put pen to paper on their first professional contracts last week, with Whaler committing to the summer of 2020 and Roberts until the summer of 2021.

Why not? Age is only a number, and if they are good enough, they are old enough. That has always been my motto, all the way through

Cobblers boss Dean Austin

Roberts has already made his senior debut, albeit for only a couple of minutes in the 2-2 draw with Oldham Athletic on the final day of the season, while Whaler was included in the matchday squad for the 3-2 win at Bury last month.

And Austin, who started 19-year-old Shaun McWilliams in all five of his games in caretaker charge at Sixfields, says there is every chance the pair will be competing for first team starts when the Sky Bet League Two season kicks off in August, regardless of their tender years.

Asked if they will be pushing for Town starts immediately, Austin said: “Why not? Age is only a number, and if they are good enough, they are old enough.

“That has always been my motto, all the way through.

“For example, I had Gary Hooper as a 17-year-old, Wilfrid Saha as a 17-year-old, John Williams as a 17-year-old, and they all played in the first team.

“They had the talent, the desire and the work ethic to be able to do it, and these two boys are no different, but it is down to them.

“Once we start pre-season, I will give them the base and the environment that we’ll create to help them push on, and then it is down to them.”

Roberts and Whaler are already at home in the first team environment, having regularly trained with the senior squad since the turn of the year.

Austin accepts they will now face a different challenge when they return for their first pre-season as a professional at the end of June, but he is confident they will take things in their stride.

“The boys have had a taste of it, and they have adapted really, really well,” said the Cobblers boss. “Now over a longer period of time, this is where the test comes now.

“They are starting from scratch again, and it is a longer period so you will be talking about nine months.

“They have both worked with me anyway, even when Jimmy (Floyd Hasselbaink) was here, when I use to bump the numbers up, and I like to do that with the players that are performing best in the youth team.

“If they are performing well. then they will get the opportunity to come and train with us, and if they perform well in training, they get a chance of being with us more often, and that’s how these boys have earned it.

“They deserve it. They deserve it for their work ethic and their performances.

“It’s a nice day when you sign your first professional contract, and something that stays with you forever.”