SPENCER HARRIS has already enjoyed one tussle with Tranmere this season.
But little did the teenage defender who helped Town clinch a 2-1 FA Youth Cup second-round win at Prenton Park earlier this season think he’s have the chance of being involved in another at League I level.
Many supporters won’t have heard of the 17-year-old centre-back from Sowerby Bridge, who has been named in the 16 for tomorrow’s Galpharm clash by Gerry Murphy.
But the caretaker manager knows him well, and believes the lifelong Burnley fan will benefit greatly from his big-match experience.
The call-up is a reward for his hard work in training and academy games and his performance in Wednesday’s 3-1 reserve win over Bradford at Valley Parade.
But that was only a second Pontin’s League start for Harris, making his transition to the first-team squad all the more impressive.
The first came in the 2-1 home win over Bradford back in September, and there have been five further reserve outings as a substitute for Harris, who has been a regular for Town’s Under 18s in the FA Premier Academy League (Middlesbrough is that team’s destination tomorrow).
“My goal at the start of this season was to be breaking into the reserves by the end of it, so I’m really pleased at my progress,” said the first-year academy scholar who looked on as fellow teenager Shane Killock made a first-team bow in the 2-0 defeat at Crewe in September.
“My first reserve start against Bradford was brilliant for me, and it was great to play at the stadium instead of Storthes Hall.
“It hit home in the build-up, when I was a bit nervous, but when the game got going, I didn’t really notice the surroundings.”
Harris has had a great role model in Graham Mitchell, the Town academy chief who is currently assisting Murphy with the first team.
“Having a former centre-back as a manager has really helped my game,” he said.
“I’ve learned a lot while going through the defending drills in training, and you can’t help but respect Graham given the number of first-team games he played.
“It’s really encouraging to see Nathan Clarke and David Mirfin, who are both academy products, as key members of the first-team squad, and I’d love to achieve that myself one day.”
Former Town midfielder Adnan Ahmed is in contention for a Tranmere starting berth.
That’s because Paul McLaren starts a two-match suspension after picking up a 10th booking of the season as Rovers lost 2-0 at home to Nottingham Forest last Saturday, their second defeat in succession.
Town: Glennon, Holdsworth, Williams, Skarz, Mirfin, N Clarke, Page, T Clarke, Berrett, Collins, Booth, Beckett, Kamara, Schofield, Harris, Smithies.
Tranmere: Coyne, Stockdale, Kay, Chorley, Goodison, Taylor, Shuker, Jennings, Sherriff, Moore, Greenacre, Curran, Davies, Mullin, Ahmed, Jones, Achterberg.
Referee: Steve Bratt (West Midlands).