There was no wiping the smile off Shaun McWilliams’ face after he fulfilled a dream by making his Cobblers first-team debut on Saturday.
Having worked his way through the ranks at Sixfields, McWilliams was promoted to the first-team last summer by then-manager Rob Page before heading out on loan at King’s Lynn in August.
Recalled by Justin Edinburgh last month, the 18-year-old formed part of the Cobblers match day squad for last week’s goalless draw against Oxford and did so again seven days later for Town’s visit to Rochdale.
Except this time he went one step further and made his professional debut, thrown on in place of John-Joe O’Toole for the final quarter of the match, during which time Paul Anderson’s stoppage-time goal rescued Northampton a dramatic late point.
Not one to shirk his midfield duties, McWilliams impressed in his short cameo and saw plenty of the ball as he helped his side come away with an excellent draw.
“I wasn’t expecting anything but I’m just ready for when I do get the shout and then I’ve got to go on and give my all when I’m needed,” he said afterwards.
“I was a bit shaky when I came on but I enjoyed it in the end and I felt myself getting a bit more comfortable and I grew into the game.
“The boys had a lot of faith in me. They gave me the ball and and they weren’t avoiding me so when I got the ball I could show what I can do and I’ll carry on doing that.
“And when I gave the ball away they weren’t jumping on my back, they were driving me on and telling me well done and I think that really helped me.
“I was excited to get my chance and get into the team. It’s a dream for me. I live in Northampton myself so this is what I aim to do.”
I was a bit shaky when I came on but I enjoyed it in the end and I felt myself getting a bit more comfortable and I grew into the game.
Having netted seven goals during his stay at King’s Lynn, McWilliams believes the time spent on loan at the Southern League club was invaluable in helping him to improve his all-round game and adjust to adult football.
He’s also featured in recent reserve friendlies at Sixfields and with the guidance of senior team-mates such as Matty Taylor and captain Marc Richards, his progression through the ranks at Northampton has been impressive, so much so a first start can’t be too far away.
“I played right-back for the U16s and then I went to central midfield and that’s where I am now,” he explained.
“I speak with the skip Rico on a one-to-one basis and I learn a lot from him and Matty Taylor speaks to me as well so I can learn from them.
“I was on loan earlier this season and I’ve been recalled. That helped my game and I think I’ve improved and now I’m ready to show it here.
“That (starting a game) will be the aim but I’m not expecting it. I’m just ready for the call and then I can show everyone what I’ve got.”
McWilliams also revealed there is one player’s footsteps who he’d like to follow, adding: “I witnessed Ivan Toney come through and I saw how they treated him so hopefully it’ll be the same for me.”