Crewe Alexandra striker Max Clayton has been named the August Young Player of the Month for the npower Football League.
A product of the club’s famed youth system, Clayton struck twice last month against Hartlepool United in the Capital One Cup and featured for England U19s in their tie against Germany in Hamburg.
The 18-year-old forward made his debut for the Railwaymen against Morecambe aged 16 and last season guaranteed the club’s passage into the npower League 2 Play-Off Final with a late semi-final goal against Southend United.
Clayton has represented England at U16, U17, U18 and U19 levels and was part of the side that competed in the U17 2011 World Cup in Mexico.
In receiving the Award, Clayton admitted that seeing his boyhood friend and former team-mate Nick Powell move to Manchester United in the summer has inspired him this season.
“Nick and I have known each other since we were five or six years old,” he told The Football League website.
“It still gives me goosebumps seeing him come on for Manchester United. We were so close in ability and now he’s at Old Trafford which gives me the belief that I can do something similar one day.
“It is a really good feeling to get this Young Player of the Month Award, it let’s everyone know that my hard work is paying off. Confidence on and off the pitch has never been a problem for me which is maybe why I have made the step up as early as I did – obviously I have got to keep that going and have a good season.
“Crewe is the best place to start your career – there is nowhere else in the country where you’d be playing regularly at the age of 18. The timing of any move is imperative. The test for me now is to have a good season and see how well I can develop at League One level.”
Crewe Boss Steve Davis believes Clayton has the capabilities to follow in the footsteps of Powell: “He’s been the key this season for us and being so young he’s obviously caught the eye. Nick Powell received this Young Player of the Month Award last year and it is great that our players are recognised and rewarded for their performances.
“Max has the ability to emulate what Nick Powell is doing. We have high expectations of him and I think he’ll follow in Nick’s footsteps – he’s not ready yet but I think Max is ahead of where Nick was at this part of the season last year and he’s also playing in a higher division.
“Everything about Max’s game at the minute is spot on and he’ll only get better. He’s not ready yet but I’m sure when the time comes there will be plenty of clubs knocking on the door and he’ll go.”
Each season, Football League clubs invest more than £40m on identifying, training and educating the next generation of football talent. Around a third of this money (£12.6m) is provided by the Football Association and Premier League. There are 8,500 young players registered with League clubs making Football League Youth Development the largest centrally co-ordinated young player programme in world football.
Head of Youth Development at The Football League, David Wetherall said: “Max has made a flying start to the season and fully deserves the first young player accolade of 2012/13.
“He is yet another exciting talent out of Crewe Alexandra and an example of the homegrown talent on show week-in, week-out in The Football League.
“I hope his game goes from strength to strength and wish him the best of luck with the rest of his career.”
Each month, the Young Player of the Month Award is awarded by The Football League to the young player who has made the most significant contribution and impact in first team football. To be eligible the player must be either under 21 years of age or be playing in the season during which he turns 21.
During the 2011/12 season, 225 players aged 21 or under made their professional debuts in The Football League.