TORQUAY United manager Martin Ling has moved early to secure two of his finest youth-team prospects on professional deals.
Attacking midfielder Danny Sullivan is approaching the end of his second-year as a scholar but will not face the agonizing wait for a pro contract, as the boss has opted to move him into the first-team environment.
Defender Jake Hutchings is an even bigger surprise, as he is still only halfway through his first year as an apprentice, but Martin has already seen enough to convince him the young Londoner is worthy of a long-term deal.
“We just feel that the timing is right for both of them,” said Martin. “Hutchings has just turned 17 and we feel he is a massive prospect for this club.
“Even though he’s only been in the building six months, we feel it’s the right time for Jake to sign and moving him over to the pro environment will improve him greatly, and make him a better player quicker.
“How it will work with both them is they will still need to complete their college work, but will train with us on a Tuesday and Thursday. They will stay with the youth-team on a Monday and the decision on a Friday will depend on what them they are going to play for on a Saturday.
“If they are not in the first-team squad for the Saturday, they will train with the youth-team the day before and play for them on the weekend.
“Jake is a cultured centre-half, who has some grit about him as well. He will put his head in when needed and although he’s only 17, he is a proper prospect. Whenever I watch the youth-team, Jake and Danny are the two leaders on the pitch.
“Danny is capable of playing in the attacking hole behind a front man or out wide. He is aggressive on the ball, has good tenacity and always asks a question of defenders.
“Although these two have turned pro early, nothing changes for the rest of the youth-team because we will take any young boy we feel is capable of making it as a professional footballer, whether that’s nine boys or two.
“To get these two in the first-team training environment is a slightly different move for the club but playing with the pros will be very important to their development.”