Paul Hurst is not placing any expectations on young forward Cameron Gardner after the 18-year-old signed his first professional contract with the Grimsby Town.
The Mariners offered Gardner a three-year deal – a sign of how the club feels about his ability and his potential to be an important first-team player in the future. Gardner has already had a taste of senior football, making his competitive debut in the EFL Trophy game at Barnsley.
Gardner grew up in the North East, joining Town’s academy when he was 16. He has settled in quickly at the club with some great performances for Neil Woods’ academy team last term.
Grimsby will want to see more talent coming through as they look to once again become a club that can look to its academy for future stars. However, Hurst wants to keep the pressure off Gardner at this stage.
He said: “Who knows [what his future holds] but what I won’t do is try and pile any pressure on a young man that has got a pro contract. We gave it to him early because we felt there was an inevitability that we would be offering him something come the end of the season.
“We moved forward with the process, but I don’t think it will change his attitude, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. We think he’ll continue to work hard and try to get better while we try to help him do that too, along with Neil [Woods] and Callum Lester [youth team coaches}.
“At times he will be with us [in training] and we’ll see how much he progresses. He has obviously had a small taste of being in the first-team squad with us at Barnsley and he was in the squad last week [at Wrexham]. It is great for him and his family, but at the same time we need to leave the lad and see how he progresses because at this stage there is no expectation from me for him to be a part of the squad for any length of time.”
Gardner admitted that he was surprised to be offered a professional contract at this stage, but now his focus will switch to showing why the club showed that commitment towards him, as he thanked those who have helped him on his journey with the Mariners so far. “I didn’t see this coming,” explained Gardner.
“It came as a bit of a surprise. Paul called me into his office one day and, up until he actually said it, I had no idea that it was going to happen! I’m really pleased, though, and it’s an honour for it to happen so soon and I think it shows that the manager and the coaches have belief in me. I want to fulfil and repay that.
“The first team players have been great and have helped me settle in. I thought it would be quite hard at first to do that because there are all sorts of ages in the squad and I’m the new one, the young one that’s coming in but they’ve welcomed me. They’re trying to help me in training, which I appreciate.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to the coaches in the academy. They’ve really helped me coming through since coming in for my first year and they’ve helped me improve, told me what I need to do and I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me.”
Original story at https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/sport/