Blackburn Rovers have tied down highly-rated defender Ash Phillips to a long-term professional deal, committing his future to the club until June 2025.
The 17-year-old, who is currently away on international duty with England Under-19s, is tipped to be another Rovers academy product to reach the first team – following in the footsteps of the likes of John Buckley, Lewis Travis and Adam Wharton.
“It’s a moment that my family and I have dreamt about for ages,” Phillips told the club website. “Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be a professional footballer. To finally have that is an amazing feeling. It’s massive, the hard work you put in pays off.
“This is a club that means a lot, I’ve been here since I joined the Under-12s and to sign a pro deal here is unreal. What the gaffer and the coaches have put out in front of me, I feel this is the best place for me to develop and go higher and higher.
“I just want to be playing at the highest level and to have already experienced first-team football, for someone of my age, it’s been a dream. This is the best place for my development.
“I set out a goal to play a few times this season, the number was around five games, and I’ve already done that, I’ll have to change those goals now. There’s no time to let this feeling sink in, you’ve got to keep pushing, keep developing and keep pushing hard.”
Having joined at Under-12 level, Phillips became a regular for the Under-18s during the second half of the 2020/21 season, aged just 15, before making his Under-23s debut in last year’s Premier League 2 season opener against Everton at Ewood Park.
As a 16-year-old, the towering defender featured 11 times in PL2 and spent the majority of the campaign training with the first-team squad, earning a place on the bench for the FA Cup third round tie away to Wigan Athletic in January.
Having caught the eye of new head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson in pre-season, Phillips was rewarded with his senior debut in the 4-0 Carabao Cup first round victory over Hartlepool United in August – producing a man-of-the match performance and becoming the fourth youngest player in the club’s history – aged 17 years and 45 days.
He has gone on make four Sky Bet Championship starts before receiving his maiden call-up to the England Under-19s squad, having already represented the Under-17s.
“Today’s news is fantastic for Ashley and also for Blackburn Rovers,” said Rovers’ Director of Football Gregg Broughton.
“Ashley has been consistently courted by Premier League clubs throughout the summer and despite this has remained focused, demonstrated great maturity and hasn’t let it affect his performances in training. He has also received great support from his family throughout this process.
“He deserved his opportunity to play games when injuries in the squad arose and took that chance to prove he can handle the demands of Championship football at the age of just 17. We know that without opportunity, potential can never become talent and ensuring that potential is fulfilled can be our biggest advantage as a football club.
“Great credit is due to Jon (Dahl Tomasson) for backing up his words with actions, providing opportunity and then supporting our young players throughout. Congratulations Ashley!”