» Teenager Tom savours ‘special’ Robins debut
TOM Chamberlain described his senior debut for Cheltenham Town as a truly special night. The 17-year-old midfielder was named in boss Michael Duff’s starting XI for Tuesday’s opening Leasing.com group match against Exeter City.
He missed out Kyle Haynes’ record as the club’s youngest player since they first entered the Football League in 1999, by just 10 days.
Cheltenham were beaten 1-0 after Nicky Ajose’s early strike, but Duff’s young side, with an average age of just over 21, gave an impressive account of themselves at St James Park.
It was a landmark moment for Chamberlain, who is Cheltenham born and attended All Saints Academy, as he delivered a mature performance against a far more experienced Grecians line-up.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to make my debut,” he said.
“I have been at the club for 10 years and it’s what my life has been building up to really.
“After being out there with the lads and training with them, you just want to go out there and show them what you are made of and I thought I did well.
“There is always more you can give and I know I can always do better.
“I am very tired and my legs are killing me, but it’s a great feeling.”
Chamberlain was earmarked as a player with major potential during a youth team victory at Forest Green Rovers last season, not long after Duff had been appointed as manager.
After loan experience at Worcester City last term, Chamberlain spent the whole of pre-season with the first team squad and appeared in pre-season friendlies.
He was an unused substitute for the matches at Bristol Rovers and Morecambe, but got his chance at Exeter,
playing for 78 minutes before being replaced by Alex Addai.
“Being from Cheltenham makes it extra special wearing the badge, playing in front of the fans and it was a dream come true,” he said.
“I wasn’t really expecting it this early, but I have been waiting for it and felt I was ready.
“I want to do as much as I can now, whether that’s with the Under-18s, out on loan or in first team training.
“I want to do everything I can to push for a place on the bench or in the team.”
Chamberlain’s only previous club is Leckhampton Rovers in the Cheltenham Youth League.
One of three academy products on show along with Archie Brennan and George Lloyd, he lined up in midfield at Exeter next to Conor Thomas, with Ryan Broom in front of them and captain Ben Tozer in the backline.
The teenager said he was given plenty of advice during the evening.
“The more experienced players were constantly going through things with me, telling me where to be and to get on the ball,” he said.
“It’s a taster for me and they were all supportive and brilliant.
“I thought we played well, created chances and we just need to take them really.
“The gaffer goes on about how we be excellent and then one set piece changes the game.
“You can have the ball for 90 minutes, but in the 92nd minute you can switch off and concede from a set piece.
“It’s always ticking over in your head that you have to keep going.”
Tom Chamberlain tussles with ex-robins loanee Jake Taylor