MATTY CROOKS has made an impression already this pre-season – but Town’s young midfielder won’t be getting carried away.
Called up to train with the first-team squad when they returned to duty at the start of the month, the second-year academy scholar has figured in all four friendlies so far.
Lascelles Hall-based Crooks was handed a starting slot alongside fellow teenager Chris Atkinson as Hamilton were beaten 2-1 on Sunday.
And he’s hoping for another chance to catch the eye when Lee Clark’s side tackle Scottish Premier League new boys Dunfermline in Fife tonight.
Now 17, Crooks was handed a first-team squad berth last October and was an unused substitute for the FA Cup first-round tie at Cambridge in November.
But he admitted: “It was a surprise to get a phone call from (academy chief) Graham Mitchell to say the manager wanted me to train with the first team this pre-season.
“I was excited but nervous as well, and my aim is to work as hard as I can and pick up as much experience from the senior players as I can.”
Crooks also started the opening friendly at Gateshead and came off the bench at Wrexham and Sheffield FC and added: “I certainly didn’t expect to have this much game time.
“But it’s been brilliant, and I’m trying to take it in my stride, do as well as I possibly can, and see what happens.”
Crooks, who was with Town as a pre-teen and returned at 15 after a couple of seasons with Manchester United, watched Atkinson make a first-team breakthrough last season.
“It’s an inspiration for me, because it shows that young players get their chance here,” said the six-footer who is still growing.
“I’ve known Chris a while, and it’s great to see how he has come through from the academy and made his mark.
“He is developing his game and that’s what I want to do, both technically and in terms of strength and power.
“I’ve grown quite a bit over the last year – people say I’ve been in the greenhouse – and I’ve got a special programme from (fitness coach) Tom Little to help me bulk up.”
Although born in Leeds, Crooks comes from a family of big Manchester United fans, and at one time, was an Old Trafford regular himself.
“United have had some fantastic players, and Paul Scholes is probably my favourite, but as a midfielder, I have to admit Frank Lampard is a player I love to watch,” he explained.