Cobblers youngster Shaun McWilliams won high praise from both manager Justin Edinburgh and team-mate Paul Anderson following his professional debut on Saturday.
The 18-year-old, who joined Northampton’s academy four years ago, was introduced by Edinburgh as a second-half substitute during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Rochdale.
The Cobblers were trailing 1-0 at the time of McWilliams’ arrival on 66 minutes, when he replaced John-Joe O’Toole, but after twice hitting the post during a period of pressure, the visitors snatched a late point through Anderson’s fine finish in injury-time.
McWilliams didn’t play a direct role in the goal but he caught the eye with a bright and lively cameo, always making himself available for a pass even if it didn’t necessarily come off.
Afterwards, both manager Edinburgh and experienced midfielder Anderson spoke highly of the teenager, who’s back at Sixfields after spending time on loan at King’s Lynn earlier in the season.
“I’m pleased for Shaun who came in and made his league debut and I thought he did very well,” said Edinburgh.
“He’s a young boy with a bright future as long as he keeps learning and keeps working hard and if he does we’ll see a lot more of him in the future.
“He’s got a lot of energy. He’s been away at King’s Lynn learning his trade which is brilliant and he’s come back a better person for that because he understands what it could be like outside of this club and outside of professional football.
“It gives them a really good insight into what it requires to be a professional footballer and he’s come back now and I’m really pleased to see him get his debut.”
McWilliams’ arrival into Saturday’s game came at the cost of O’Toole, whose persistent groin injury meant he was unable to complete 90 minutes for the second successive weekend having also missed last week’s clash against Oxford.
He’s a young boy with a bright future as long as he keeps learning and keeps working hard and if he does we’ll see a lot more of him in the future.Cobblers boss Justin Edinburgh
“It’s an ongoing one,” explained Edinburgh on the 12-goal midfielder. “He’s limited in his training and he needs to train and not only play.
“It’s a little bit sluggish but he’s always a threat and he’s a presence out there but it just didn’t run for him.”
Meanwhile, having watched him train and progress first-hand, Anderson was also full of praise for young McWilliams.
The former Bradford City man said: “He’s been absolutely top drawer. He’s been on loan this season but he’s been training with us week in week out and to be fair to the lad he’s worked very hard in the gym.
“He’s put on a little bit of weight and he’s still young and if he keeps working hard he’ll get more opportunities.
“When you’re training with the first-team every single day you do get used to the pace of it and he’s played a lot reserve games where we’ve had first-team players playing so he knows what’s expected of him.
“He came on and put himself about and did really well and I’m sure he’ll be happy with how he did and it’s a great moment for the young boy.”