Graham Alexander insists he’s got a hot young prospect in Nick Haughton, but the Fleetwood manager made it clear the 20-year-old development squad star has to keep his feet on the ground.
Haughton made his Football League debut in Town’s 1-0 win over Port Vale on Saturday – one of the second-half substitutes who swung the game in Fleetwood’s favour.
The former Runcorn Town midfielder was an instant hit with the Highbury crowd, forcing a superb late save as Fleetwood pressed for a second.
And boss Alexander was full of praise for the youngster.
He said: “It’s a promising start. He’s earned his chance.
“He’s been patient and played well in reserve and development games. He’s worked really hard with Barry Nicholson’s group.
“When he’s trained with us, he looked like a first-team player and it’s reached the stage where we can bring him into the squad.
“He was going to come on last weekend but Stephen Crainey got sent off, so we had to change that. But he played against Port Vale and had a positive impact.
“Now he’s got to work hard to stay in the group and push on again.”
The manager revealed Haughton had endured a tough time, having to put in a huge amount of work to prepare physically for the rigours of League One.
He explained: “We brought him in last year when he was still at college.
“He struggled because he was part-time. He was a young lad. He’s worked ever so hard on his fitness levels. He’s worked in the gym just to be able to compete.
“He’s got all the skill in the world but he needed to be able to hold the challenges off.”
And Alexander believes that Town have a young player who breaks the mould.
He added: “He’s a quiet lad, a real nice kid. He looks about 10.
“But when he goes on that pitch he plays like he’s not afraid at all.
“He doesn’t shy away from the ball. He puts himself about and he won three or four tackles on Saturday.
“Now he’s just got to keep his feet on the ground with his workrate and his physical development. But we’ve got a player who we feel is a bit different from everybody else.
“But he’s played 20 minutes of League football. We’re not going to get carried away. We’ll keep on developing him and keep giving him the platform to improve.”
It’s been a whirlwind month for the 20-year-old, who put pen to paper on a new deal after impressing with the development squad and reserves.
Alexander now wants the midfielder to go out and prove he’s ready to take another big step forward.
“We felt it was a matter of time before he got into the first team,” the manager said.
“We felt he deserved an extended contract. The contract isn’t a world-beater. It’s not going to buy him any fancy cars but it’s recognition of his work.
“The club always does that when people do well. We always look after them.
“But now it’s up to him to maintain his progress.
“If he thinks he’s made it now, he’s going to get a shock. But he trains ever so hard and we’ve got high hopes for him.”
And there’s a belief within the Fleetwood camp that Haughton is just the first in a line of development squad talent with the ability to make the next step.
Alexander said: “We’ve got a few players in Barry’s squad who we think can take the same path.
“If they work hard and show us what they are capable of, we’ll give them their chance.”