St Ives Town boss Ricky Marheineke hopes teenage talent Jack Jefferson is the first of a new wave of local lads to burst into non-league football.
Striker Jefferson has been handed a place in the club’s first-team squad for next season at Southern League Division One (Central) level despite still only 15 years of age.
The St Ivo School pupil does not turn 16 until next month but has caught the eye with his displays for the club’s Under 18 side.
St Ives are of course no strangers to producing their own talent. Current Peterborough United striker Conor Washington made his mark with his hometown club before earning a move to Newport County.
Marheineke said: “I watched a lot of Jack in youth football last season. I didn’t see a better individual player and he developed very well while working with our Under 18 manager Darren Marjoram.
“He is technically and tactically very good and I feel he has the physical attributes to handle the step into senior football.
“We will look to involve Jack in some of the cup competitions and also get him minutes in league games where the result is already settled.
“And with the club’s Scholarship programme starting this summer, hopefully Jack can be the first of a new generation of homegrown players to come through the ranks.
“We will probably never see the like of Conor again, but his rise shows what is possible for young players - as does the fact there were players in our division last season who got moves to big clubs like Crystal Palace, QPR and Swindon.”
Marheineke has also been boosted by midfielder Jack Higgs’ decision to remain at ProEdge Westwood Road.
Higgs – manager’s player-of-the-season last term – has snubbed other interest to stay.
Marheineke added: “It is a big boost for us. Jack has turned down more lucrative offers to stay.
“He is from Saffron Walden so he does a fair bit of travelling to play for us and has to contend with the A14 which is something no-one enjoys.
“We have now retained a dozen players, brought in five new ones and added young Jefferson to the squad.
“Hopefully we have the right mix of continuity and new blood to help us build on ninth place last season.”
But wideman Scott Sinclair will miss most of pre-season after breaking his hand while doing boxing training.