Sam Tattum is relishing the opportunity to achieve his footballing dreams with his local club.
The Salfordian made his debut for the u18s while still a schoolboy, and is keen to continue his progress at the club he has represented since the age of 11.
He revealed: “I’m from Worsley and I think being local gives you that bit more passion. You grow even more attached to the club, and the big games – like United – you really get into them.
“To get a scholarship here is the ultimate thing. I started to think about it when I was about 14, so it’s what I’ve been working towards for the last few years. To achieve it at such a big club, one of the best in the world is incredible.”
Sam has faced a difficult first campaign as a full time footballer, sidelined for the majority of the season with injury, but he has handled the frustration with a typically strong attitude and a desire to make the best of a tough situation.
“This season has been a nightmare!” the defender declared. “Pre-season was good, I started very well but unfortunately picked up a little injury and missed six weeks. I got going again only to get another injury and was out for six weeks again. Just before Christmas I got a bit of a momentum, but then in the first game after Christmas got injured again!
“It’s been a bit stop start unfortunately, and it’s been disappointing that I haven’t been able to push to get in the team every week, but it has allowed me to work on other parts of my game. I’m not a big lad naturally so it has allowed me to get in the gym and I have got a lot stronger.
“It is hard to be in the gym while the team are out on the pitch or having to watch the games on a Saturday morning, but I think it makes you hungrier, so when you do come back you give that extra 10%.”
The 17-year-old had a regular run in the u18s side last spring, which bodes well for when he returns to fitness in time for pre-season, but he admits that it can be very isolating to be out for so long.
However, the current crop of academy scholars are proving that a strong team ethic can prove vital to the squad on and off the field.
Tattum said: “I do think it is hard for managers and players to make injured lads feel part of the team, but I think the guys have really made an effort. We are a very tight group and I think that shows on the pitch.
“We get involved in all the video analysis sessions for example, and I feel like they have kept us involved really well.”
A full back who can play on either side of defence, Tattum is strong in attack and defence, adept at getting up and down the line and providing a pinpoint cross for his attacking teammates.
He prefers playing on the right, and admits he is much stronger on that side of the field, but has continued to work on his weaker foot as he seeks to improve on all aspects of his game.
“I think I have got a lot better on the left side this year, but I feel I have to compensate for my left foot when I play there.
“The modern day full back needs to attack and defend. I’d like to work on my defending a bit more because that is my first job, but I think being able to get forward and support the team gives you the edge.”
The youngster is lucky enough to be able to learn from one of his idols at close quarters, admitting that Pablo Zabaleta is an inspirational figure as the role of the full back continues to evolve in today’s game.
He added: “You have to be a lot fitter and faster now, and I would say you have to be a better player on the ball. It’s an important position now - if you look at the City first team a lot of the play comes from the full backs getting forward and crossing.
“Zabaleta is someone you have to look up to because he is probably the best right back in the Premier League at the moment, and someone who has improved himself and adapted his game."
"He gets forward and gets crosses in but he is a solid defender which is his first job.”
Sam is already looking towards next year, when he hopes an extended run in the side, together with the new developments at the City Football Academy can help him take the next steps in his footballing education.
“Next year we will be in the CFA, which can only help me as a player. The facilities are going to be unbelievable, and we will be on the same site as the first team and able to see them train. It’s really exciting.
“I would just like to stay fit, play week in week out for the u18s, improve my defending and play as much as I possibly can.”