Successive managers have seen something in Chesterfield youngster but John Sheridan is creating a path to senior football for him
Charlie Wakefield was but a young boy when he first pulled on a Chesterfield shirt and stepped out onto a pitch to play football in front of thousands.
He was so young, in fact, that today, exactly two years since his senior Spireites debut, he’s still only 18.
Town fans got their first glimpse of the youngster at Glanford Park, five minutes before the end of a defeat.
The game was already lost when Wakefield ran on to replace Joe Rowley, himself just 17, and perhaps there was a large slice of feelgood factor in the motivation of the management team who sent him into the fray.
It warms the most hardened of football hearts to see a precocious homegrown talent playing for their team, a boy running out amongst the men.
There’s an excitement that comes with it.
Have we unearthed a future star?
Will he be the new Sam Morsy or Gary Roberts?
Is he going to take to senior football like a duck to water and become the next multi-million pound sale, a player we’ll one day look on proudly and say we were there when it all began?
Gary Caldwell, Chesterfield manager at the time, truly believed there was a special talent within the blonde midfielder and has remained a Wakefield admirer beyond his managerial reign here.
That’s why he took him to Spain for the 2017 pre-season training camp.
That’s why, when the first game of the League Two season came around, Wakefield was a shock inclusion in the starting XI.
But maybe it all came a bit soon.
Since that 2017/18 season opener at home to Grimsby, when a crowd of nearly 8,000 watched the Mariners go 2-0 up before the break and Wakefield failed to emerge for the second half, he’s scarcely been seen again.
He made a substitute appearance in the EFL Trophy, but was himself replaced later in that game.
There was another Trophy cameo, five minutes against Manchester City Under 21s.
By that time, Jack Lester was in charge.
With Chesterfield in the throes of another unsuccessful battle to avoid relegation, maybe it just wasn’t time to be blooding teenagers.
Even Rowley, who played a lot of football last season, appeared to wilt, rather than flourish.
It’s almost 17 months since we last saw Wakefield play.
Successive managers have insisted he’s part of the bigger picture, but they haven’t played him.
He did get a little football at Sheffield FC, until they dropped him and Martin Allen abruptly ended the loan.
But there is hope yet, for the academy product.
It comes in the form of a new contract, bestowed by John Sheridan, another manager who believes there’s something to work with.
And it also comes in the form of Sheridan’s proposed development squad.
For the first time since the Spireites axed their reserves, youngsters like Wakefield will finally get the chance to play regular football in a halfway house between the youth team and the first team.
Every manager says the same thing – if they’re good enough, they’ll play.
But to get good, they need to play.
It’s all very well putting the onus on a teenager to do what is required to make it as a senior pro, but if they’re not put in regular match scenarios, where the emphasis is learning and results don’t cost jobs, it’s hard to see how they’ll ever learn.
This way, the Sheridan way, a path will be built between the academy and the first team.
It’s then up to Wakefield if he wants to walk it.