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'It's a lot of hard-work and dedication to get to this point'

- Tom Parrinello on James Spruce and Alfie Clarke signing professional deals

26 March 2018

Earlier this month, the academy pairing of James Spruce and Alfie Clarke were offered professional terms with the Club for next season.

The pair, along with Lead Professional Development Phase Coach, Tom Parrinello, recently sat down to discuss signing their first pro-deals.

Striker James Spruce has produced an impressive goal return in his two seasons with the Club's Academy, which has led to him gaining international caps at youth level with Wales, as well as a number of appearances for the Development Squad throughout the season.

"I have been with the Club for two years as a scholar and personally, I feel that I have progressed as both a player and a person during that time as well," said Spruce.

"I think my goal tally stands at around thirty over both seasons."

"I got the news a couple of weeks ago about my pro-deal, so I'm looking ahead to finishing this season strong and then starting full-time next season."

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Alfie Clarke was a constant feature for the U18's in the first half of the season and played almost every minute of their Youth Alliance fixtures before Chrismas. An injury at the beginning of January while out on loan put an abrupt end to the defender's campaign, but he is committed to returning fitter and stronger than before in his first season as a professional. 

"I thought that I had a good season, but I got injured at the start of January and that put thoughts in my head that maybe that would put some risk to me being offered a pro deal," outlined Clarke.

"In the build-up to being told I was a bit nervous and when I found out that I was being offered a deal I was over the moon and I couldn't be happier."

"I'm one month into my rehab now and I have three months left to go, so I will be ready to hit the ground running for the first week of pre-season training."

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Speaking about the pair making the progression to full-time training in a professional setting, Lead Professional Development Phase Coach, Tom Parrinello, signals that both players need to mark this as the start of their journey in the professional game.

"I'm delighted for both players," said Parrinello.

"It's a lot of hard-work and dedication from the lads to get to this point and we always reinforce that it's just a starting point."

"Yes, it's great that they have been offered their first contract and we are rightly very happy for them, but it's just a starting point for them to take it on to the next level."

"As staff of the Academy, we are delighted, as this is what we are here for, to bring lads through the system."

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