Matlock Town development manager Justin Tellus has backed under-16s captain Zak Brunt to succeed at a top professional club — and follow in the footsteps of the academy’s Max Hunt.
Hunt left the academy for Derby County last month and Tellus believes Brunt could also go to a top club.
The highly-rated 16-year-old attacking midfielder joined the Gladiators last year and became the youngest player to feature for the first team when he came on as a substitute in their 3-3 draw at Witton Town in the NPL Premier Division.
Previously a part of youth set-ups at Aston Villa, Manchester City, Derby County and Atletico Madrid, Brunt is one of the most sought-after youngsters in the country and his talents have drawn high praise from Tellus.
“Zac is exceptional,” he said. “He’s a big prospect at the club and he’s one of the best players I’ve seen at his age.
In his short time at the club, the under-16s’ captain has caught the eye of various league clubs, including the likes of Premier League Leicester City.
“He is being watched at Matlock by scouts from league clubs and he is good enough to be at a top club,” Tellus added.
Commenting on Hunt’s move to Derby, Tellus said: “It is a massive achievement for the club after a lot of hard work over the years. We are all very proud of Max and really pleased with the deal.”
He underlined the importance of players’ mental strength in making the jump from non-league to the top tier, stating that it was “a very big factor if you’re going to make it as a professional.”
“Max was one of the players who worked hard to continuesly improve in the Group,” Tellus added, “but he did the best he could on his own and had the right mindset.
“Interestingly, he didn’t win at the development awards last year, but now he’s on a professional contract at Derby County.”
In addition to Hunt, Tellus highlighted the example of Jamie Vardy to show that players starting out in non-league can still make it to a top club – which is an objective of Matlock’s academy.
He said: “It is very much a pathway now. Bringing young players into academies and helping them make it as professional and semi-professional footballers has always been our aim, and we hope to keep it going.”