Academy midfielders Matthew Craig and George Abbott both spoke of a rewarding feeling after making their first team debuts in Sunday’s win at Leeds.
Development Squad stalwart Matthew, 20, was introduced in place of Yves Bissouma in the 77th minute for his senior bow, having been named on the bench several times at the tail end of both this season and last, with 17-year-old George following suit at the start of an extended period of stoppage time as Oliver Skipp made way. A regular in our Double-winning youth team this season and having made a handful of appearances for the Under-21s as well, it was only George’s second-ever appearance in a Premier League matchday squad.
With the Club since the ages of 11 and seven respectively, the talented young duo were elated to have earned their opportunities after terrific seasons on a personal level.
“I’m really proud for myself and everyone who has been involved in the journey along the way,” said Matthew, who started every game for our Under-21s in the Premier League 2 this season. “As a young boy, everyone dreams of making their Premier League debut some day and I’m lucky enough to do it.
“Every day that you’re in the building, it’s just working towards getting over into the first team and I think I’ve tried to do that as much as possible this year, and also in the past as well. On a personal note, I’m happy because it feels like the culmination of everything you do every day. George has worked really hard this year as well and I’m pleased for him too.”
An Under-17 and Under-18 Premier League Cup winner this term, George, who has shown his versatility by excelling in both full-back positions as well as in midfield, concurred with Matthew’s sentiments.
“Of course, it’s a major step up from Under-18s football,” he said. “I think you have less time on the ball here, we’ve been training with the first team now and again so we know what it’s like but just to get that moment… it’s a big achievement.
“It’s a very proud moment for me and my family. Everything I’ve put into this… I’m just really happy to make my debut. The Leeds fans are obviously known for being loud, it was a bit nerve-wracking getting on but after that I thought I got into it, calmed down a lot and it was a good experience.”
With the team leading 3-1 at the point of their introductions, both players were on the pitch when Lucas Moura came up with one last magic moment, scoring a majestic solo goal with his last action in a Spurs shirt to complete a 4-1 victory.
Having both been a team-mate of Lucas’ during his handful of appearances for our Under-21s this season, the duo were delighted to have seen one of their mentors bow out in such pleasing circumstances.
“It was amazing – it was his last game and he comes out with a great goal like that!” smiled Matthew. “Obviously he’s played with us a couple of times this season as well and he’s been great when he’s been with us, so I’m over the moon for him – it’s the perfect send-off.”