Meet Liam Cross, Town's latest young talent hoping to break into the first-team
The teenage midfielder made his debut on the final day of the season
Keeping in mind the man who has just been appointed Town's new permanent manager, it might not be such a bad time to be a young player trying to break into the first-team.
Very few know more about Northampton’s academy and the talent within it than Jon Brady, who was confirmed as the club’s full-time boss on a two-year deal last weekend.
And neither are there many managers likely to be as willing to give young players an opportunity in the first-team than the former Brackley Town boss.
Developing and improving players, especially those in their tender years, is something that drives Brady on, so handing 18-year-old Liam Cross his debut at Sunderland’s magnificent Stadium of Light last Sunday must have been a proud moment.
The midfielder replaced Mark Marshall with 12 minutes to go and so nearly ended up on the winning side as Sam Hoskins’ late free-kick was cancelled out by Carl Winchester’s even later leveller.
“I’m absolutely over the moon to make my debut,” said Cross, speaking shortly after the full-time whistle. “Obviously I’m gutted with how the season has ended for the club but personally I’m really happy to get my debut.
“I just tried to treat it like any other game, as if I’m still playing with youth team, because if I hadn’t have done that, I think I would end up being overawed by the occasion.
“I wanted to play it like a normal game and I thought I did OK. I didn’t get too long out on the pitch but I loved every minute of being out there and I thought I made some OK contributions.
“I’ve not had the chance to ring my parents yet but I’m sure I will do when I get back into the changing room and on the bus – it’ll be good to tell them!”
Despite playing in midfield, Cross was the youth team’s top scorer last season, and for those who have never seen him in action, he says that is very much part of his game.
“I’m an energetic midfielder,” he explained. “I like to get forward and score a lot of goals and get assists and help the team in that way – that’s the type of player I am.”
Cross was one of four academy graduates to get on the pitch at Sunderland, joining striker Caleb Chukwuemeka, winger Morgan Roberts and and Shaun McWilliams.
Offered a first professional deal on Tuesday, it has been some week for the teenager, although he doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels.
“I hope I can play more for the first-team in the future,” he added. “I’m not sure I’ve played with Morgan but I’ve played with a lot of the other youth players.
“I played with Caleb quite a bit for the youth team and we’ve been quite successful over the last few years so hopefully we can bring that to the first-team and in a couple of years’ time, we can be pushing on.”
Cross knows Brady well from their time together with the U18s and whilst that’s no guarantee of earning opportunities in the first-team next season, he hopes to play some part as the club try to bounce back to League One at the first time of asking.
“I think Jon deserves it and I’m really happy and grateful that he put me on for my debut,” Cross added.
“He deserves everything and that goes for all of the staff here, including Sammo and Rico - they deserve the opportunity.
“I want to push on now as well and hopefully I’ll be here next season to try and help the club bounce back.”