Liam Kirk - one of the new kids on the block for Sheffield Steelers - admits to a certain amount of guilt at taking team-mate Luke Ferrara’s position on the roster.
It’s not Kirk’s fault ofcourse - decisions on which players come, go or stay are exclusively the preserve of the head coach.
But the 17-year-old wouldn’t be human if he didn’t have some feeling for Ferrara, who was not offered a fresh contract and eventually moved to Coventry Blaze.
At the time, coach Paul Thompson said he had to give Kirk his chance to shine, in the same way Marcus Rashford had burst on the footballing scene with Manchester United and England. That could only happen, given the budget, if Ferrara was dispensed with.
Kirk says he’s “tried not to think about it in that way.” He told The Star: “I’m sure Luke wanted to stay, but it was Thommo’s decision; I had no say in it. I just try to play my game. But yes there is always a little guilt even though it wasn’t down to me. Luke is a great player, he will go on and do great things at Coventry.”
Kirk said it made him chuckle to hear his potential rise could be compared to Rashford. “It is an amazing compliment” he said. But for the time being he would be absorbing as much knowledge as he can off and on the ice.
“Twelve months ago me and Cole (Shudra) were suddenly learning a lot about systems, something we didn’t do much of in the junior programme. We will be learning a lot more from now on.”
Kirk said he would be increasing his skill-set with work after training and was benefiting from gym work through the close season with fitness coach Danny Mawer.
There won’t be many teenagers in the Elite League next season and the winger said: “It feels surreal. People will be looking at me to see whether it pays off. But Thommo gave me the position for a reason and I am confident I can do well.”