Towering Matlock Town centre-back Max Hunt has become the first academy graduate in ten years to sign a professional contract with the Gladiators.
As Hunt made his way onto the pitch, on as a second half substitute, in Town’s final pre-season friendly against Belper his key attribute was instantly clear.
Hunt, at 6’6”, stood taller than certainly most, if not all other players on the pitch.
His height lends him perfectly to the aerial side of the game, which is a huge asset in attacking and defending corners.
“I’ve never had a growth spirt, it’s always been constant height. I just kept growing, I’ve never been small,” Hunt said.
As well as his height, Hunt feels he has an attribute uncommon with players of his position, whilst also being able to lead a team.
Hunt added: “I’d like to think I’m capable with both feet. I like to lead and talk to those around me especially if I’m playing with younger lads, I like to try and help develop their game as much as I can.”
Max’s career started out when he was signed for Nottingham Forest at a young age.
When Hunt was released from Forest after several years there he found his way to Matlock. He continued to impress with the Gladiators before being invited to train with Football League side Mansfield Town where he was offered a place with the Under-21s, an offer which he turned down to return to Matlock.
“I had the opportunity to stay on with the U21s there, but I felt to come into first team football was the better opportunity to develop as a player and learn a lot more about the game,” he said. “It’s a good club, I like it here so it was a no brainer really.
“I’ve loved every minute of it here, everyone’s been welcoming. The gaffers are both good blokes, they’ve really helped me and I’ve been given the chance so I’m just taking it game by game.
The main reason behind Max’s move from Mansfield back to Matlock was the desire to play first team football, which he believed he had more chance of doing at Town due to the mentality of the coaches.
He said: “With the gulf in players that there are at pro clubs like Mansfield, there are always senior pros that make it hard to break into that first team standard.
“Not that it’s not like that here, but I think Matlock are willing to give a young lad a chance. If they get a good player they’re willing to give him a go, they’ve been excellent with me so far.
“It’s a great club with the foundations to move things forward, so I think I’ll be the first of many.
“My dad has always been a role model to me, he’s always been a massive influence. He’s passionate about me doing it, he played it a lot himself so I’ve always had the support and the drive behind me to do well.
“He played at a good level for his time, but it was quite a while a go so the standard wasn’t quite the same back then. He likes to tell me he was an alright player but I don’t know.”
Hunt is one of the players that are an example of the good work that is going on behind the scenes in the Gladiators’ academy set up. Over the past two years the work has been put in by the Matlock town development team that has led to Max’s pro contract.
The development team made the decision to move the academy teams from the youth leagues to play in proper men’s leagues, a bold decision which received some criticism from those that didn’t believe a youth side could hold its own in a men’s league, but a decision that is clearly paying dividends.
The Academy players have even been put through media training to prepare them for the world of football and all of the development sector’s work is beginning to come to fruition.
Academy coach and first team captain Jamie Yates spoke with pride when discussing their accomplishments.
He said:“Harry Wood’s knocking on the door, Ben Edgeson’s played first team games, and Jordan Pierrepont is the first team sub goalie at the minute, so there’s four lads (including Hunt) there that are knocking on the door that have come from our academy.
“As long as it (the academy set up) gets a little stronger, which it is doing, there will be more examples like Max, which I’m so proud of.
“Max Hunt’s ability and attitude stood out from day one, he’s got the mental strength to go away and work, which he’s done and as a result he’s signed a contract for the first team which is excellent.”