Northampton’s talented crop of young players have been set a challenge by manager Keith Curle, who’s opened the door for more to follow in Jay Williams’ footsteps and break into the first-team before the end of the season.
Williams, still just a teenager, was handed his full league debut by Curle on New Year’s Day when he started in midfield for Town’s Sky Bet League Two encounter with Forest Green Rovers, his seventh appearances in all for the campaign.
The Cobblers lost the game 2-1 after Theo Archibald’s 94th minute winner, but the 18-year-old gave an assured and mature performance that belied his tender years and highlighted why his manager, and many others, think so highly of him.
It was especially impressive given Williams usually plays at centre-back for the youth team, however it was not the first time that Curle has deployed him in a central midfield role.
“People have said Jay Williams has been outstanding at centre-back and not many would have played him in central midfield as a holding player with a defensive mentality, but it’s one of those, I’ve seen something in Jay that I like,” explained the Town boss.
“Jay came in for this game and it was a very good performance, a solid defensive performance. He’s a big prospect.
There’s a progression for some of the young players to get into the team – can they get into it by the end of the season and be part of the rebuild for next term?
“He’s been training with us, went back to the youth team and then came back into the fold and that’s about his development and his understanding of when he’s in and around the first-team.
“Can he take those same principles and can he be an example for the other young players at the club? I’ve got to say, he’s a very grounded young man who accepts challenges, has a good understanding and has a good honesty about himself as well.”
Curle has now set a challenge to Town’s numerous other young players to see if they can break into the first team and put themselves in the frame next season, with the likes of Camron McWilliams, Sean Whaler and Morgan Roberts among those to have featured already this term.
“There’s other young players at the club that I like that haven’t yet been given the opportunity at first-team level,” Curle added.
“There’s a short-term view which is about results but there’s a progression for some of the young players to get into the team – can they get into it by the end of the season and be part of the rebuild for next term?”