Bristol Rovers defender Tom Lockyer has put pen to paper on a two-year professional contract at the club.
The 18-year-old who is just finishing his Apprenticeship at the Memorial Stadium made his first-team debut in January when he was brought on as a late substitute for Ellis Harrison during Rovers 3-0 win at Fleetwood.
Three further substitute appearances have followed and the youngster is now keen to establish himself as a regular in the clubs first XI.
“I am delighted to have signed a two year deal, the gaffer got a chance to see what I was about this season, and I am happy. This is good, but I have not made it yet, in years to come I want to be the first name on the team sheet every week.”
“The experienced players really help, and Tom Parkes is always putting his arm around me which is great.”
“This has been the best two years of my life, and hopefully there will be a lot of us from the youth team breaking through into the first team in years to come. Ellis Harrison has set us all a good example and shown that if you work hard, you get your chance.”
While Lockyer is eager to prove his worth, Club Chairman Nick Higgs who last week praised the youth department was delighted that the youngster had agreed terms with the Pirates.
“I am delighted that Tom has committed his future to Bristol Rovers,” said Higgs. “It is just another example of how well our youth system is developing, and how there are opportunities for young players to make the step up to the first team squad.”
“Tom is an exciting prospect, and I look forward to watching him develop even further.”
Lockyer is one of half a dozen youth-team players to pledge his future to the club on professional terms this summer and Higgs believes that the financial landscape in the lower tiers of the Football League means that this is essential.
“The whole thing, right through the centre of excellence and beyond, is a well-run operation with a mixture of experienced coaches and good up-and-coming local players. The culmination of that has been the league and cup double our Under-18s achieved this season and that bodes well for the immediate future.”
“I think it is well documented that clubs in the lower leagues can’t compete with the massive transfer fees that go on at higher levels. We have to look at procuring talent from our youth squad and then trying to develop it. I think we have put some other clubs to shame in that area over the last couple of years considering what we have managed to produce for our size.”