IT will be a whole new ball game for young Doncaster Rovers defender James Husband when he reports back for pre-season training early next month.
Unlike this time last year when he was a member of the club’s youth team, the 18-year-old left-back is expected to feature prominently in Dean Saunders’ plans - particularly if Tommy Spurr or George Friend move on - next season.
Husband more than justified the club’s decision to hand him a 30-month contract midway through last season when grabbing his chance with both hands after being handed his first-team starting debut at Middlesbrough in the closing weeks of the term.
He won the club’s man of the match award in two of the three games he played.
“The gap between the youth team and the first team didn’t really prove a problem because the club managed it well,” he told The Star.
“I’d been training with the first-team squad for three months, whilst playing for the youth team on the Saturday, and got used to the tempo. It wasn’t a case of coming straight out of the youth team and playing at Championship level.
“I don’t necessarily think first-team football is quicker; there is just more quality on the ball. You can’t afford to do certain things because of the players around you. The quality of the finishing is also a lot more clinical.
“The manager told me to just play my normal game but obviously I wasn’t able to push forward as much as I had done in the youth team because there is more risk involved.
“The Championship was obviously more physical than the Northern Alliance League but I felt that I coped okay. I was up against some biggish lads in the three games, and although I wasn’t as big as them. I don’t think it proved a problem.”
He added: “Depending on who is here at the start of the season, it is not going to be easy to start in the team. But the manager has told me that I am as equal as anyone else and that if I do well in pre-season then I’ll have a chance of starting.
“I don’t know who is going to be here, but I think it is realistic to expect us to be challenging for promotion. We’ve currently got a lot of Championship-quality players and the more we keep we’ll obviously do better next season. But I’ve no doubts that the 11 players the manager puts out every week will do a good job in League One.”
Rovers will entertain Hull City in a pre-season friendly on July 31.