Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink says the fact teenager Shaun McWilliams has so quickly become a key member of the Cobblers first team squad means he deserves the new three-year contract he signed last week.
And the Town boss has challenged the homegrown talent to now kick on and to immediately start working on what he has to do to earn his next deal at Sixfields.
The 19-year-old was awarded an improved contract by Hasselbaink last week, having impressed the Dutchman with his performances both prior to and after he took the reins at Sixfields.
McWilliams still had close to 10 months to run on the first professional contract he signed with the Cobblers in May, 2016, but Hasselbaink wanted to immediately reward the player for his impressive progress.
Only brought into the first team by Justin Edinburgh in April, McWilliams has quickly established himself as a genuine contender for a central midfield starting role, and Hasselbaink is delighted with the player.
“Shaun came out of the youth, and he has done exceptionally well before I came,” said Hasselbaink, who also selected the player to start first two games in charge, only to lose him to a foot injury.
He deserved a new contract, and hopefully that will stimulate him even more, to get another contract. It is up to him now. We like him, we want to work with him and we see potentialJimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on Shaun McWilliams
“I have watched all of the DVDs of the games that he played before I was here, and I think it’s important that the younger players, in the youth set up, that they see the club has got a manager, and also the identity, that if they do well that it will be appreciated and that we will look after them
“I think that Shaun is now a valid member of the 23 or 24 (in the first team squad), so I looked at his contract and I thought it wouldn’t be fair, the money that he was earning, if he is a proper member of that group.
“So he deserved a new contract, and hopefully that will stimulate him even more, to get another contract.
“It is up to him now. We like him, we want to work with him and we see potential.
“He is still raw, he still has to learn the game quite a lot, but he is going in the right direction.”
McWilliams is now fit again and is set to feature in Saturday’s Sky Bet League One clash with Bristol Rovers at Sixfields, and footballing talent is clearly something that runs in the McWilliams family.
Shaun’s 16-year-old brother Camron was named on the substitites’ bench for Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy clash at Peterborough United, and he too has caught the eye of the Cobblers manager.
“Shaun’s younger brother was on the bench the other night, and he is a good right-back,” said Hasselbaink. “So it is a talented family!”
Also on the bench alongside McWilliams Jnr at London Road was James Gillard, a 17-year-old who has also come through the ranks, and although neither player got on, it is an idication that Hasselbaink is keeping a close eye on what is happening beneath the senior squad.
Indeed, Hasselbaink is keen for the youth system at Sixfields to flourish, saying it would be ‘magnificent’ if players can progress from the young age-groups through to the first team.
Asked if he thinks it is important to have a clear pathway from the club’s youth system to the first team, Hasselbaink said: “You have to, otherwise, don’t have a youth system.
“I think, even though we have good investors and good owners at the club, if we can develop the youngsters and put some asset into the club, then that is magnificent.”