Bristow blazes a trail for teens
TIVERTON Town manager Mark Saunders has thrown down the gauntlet to the club's youngsters to press their claims for a first-team spot.
The Yellows boss handed 16-year-old Max Bristow his Yellows debut during Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Didcot Town.
And he heaped praise on the under-18s starlet, claiming he could be the first of a number of youngsters to force their way into first-team contention this season.
Bristow answered an SOS after Jules Emati-Emati did not show up on Saturday and the teenager might keep his place for this weekend's trip to Cinderford Town.
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Saunders was quick to praise the work being done by under-18s manager Colin Nation and reserve team boss Darren Goff.
And he hopes Bristow's rise will herald an influx of youngsters breaking into the first team at Ladysmead.
"I made my mind up to start Max on Wednesday but we didn't tell him until the day of the game so he didn't have time to think about it," said Saunders.
"He did ever so well for a young lad and was involved with the penalty, which Joe Bushin tucked away.
"It is a big step up coming out of the under-18s straight into the first team but he coped quite well and ran his socks off.
"We were short in the striking department but we didn't think twice about chucking Max in there. He showed that he can handle it.
"He has got pace and nobody likes playing against pace. He has got a good attitude and I am really pleased for him.
"Credit must go to Colin Nation and Darren Goff because they have got some good youngsters in both their teams, which bodes well for the club.
"There are a few players in the under-18s and in the reserves who are doing well and pushing for a first-team place. That is how it has got to be at this club.
"We hope more come through because we have got a good youth system and a lot of work goes into developing these players.
"What this has showed is that we are not afraid to use these young players. Why not give them a chance to see if they can cope with it?
"Hopefully if they do the business then we won't be afraid to use them again.
"Max is a good example of someone who has been banging in the goals for the under-18s and has showed he is good enough. I know it is a massive jump in standard, but he has played 90 minutes and didn't look out of place. Things can only get better for him because of this experience.
"He needs to carry on doing what he has been doing for the under-18s and, who knows, he might get another call-up."
Saunders admits he was disappointed that he didn't hear from Emati-Emati ahead of the game and was told by one of his players that the striker was suffering from a back injury.
"You don't know whether he is going to turn up or not," added the Tivvy boss. "It is disappointing because everyone is bending over backwards for him and doing all sorts of running around for him.
"I don't want to dwell on it because there are other people to worry about."