Match experience so valuable for Flanagan

Aston Villa youngster Calum Flanagan is enjoying some valuable minutes on the pitch with Kettering Town
Aston Villa youngster Calum Flanagan is enjoying some valuable minutes on the pitch with Kettering Town

Calum Flanagan is already full of appreciation for Kettering Town taking him on loan for the remainder of the season.

The 19-year-old signed for the Poppies from Barclays Premier League side Aston Villa towards the end of last month and was given a rude awakening at the new level as he was thrown straight into a clash with in-form Gateshead who picked up a 4-1 win at the Elgood’s Arena.

However, it hasn’t taken the young defender long to adjust to his new surroundings.

His displays in the 2-0 home win over Newport County and last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Bath City really caught the eye.

And he admits getting some games under his belt is just what he needed.

“It’s been good so far,” the youngster said.

“I have been able to play some matches, which is great because that is not something I have been doing.

“I had a big injury last season and there hasn’t been much for me this year. I have come here and played four games in 10 days, which has been great.

“I wasn’t getting much of an opportunity at Villa to play games, so it was frustrating to train all week and not having anything at the end of it.

“No footballer wants that so it has been good to come here and the manager has given me the chance to play.

“This is first-team football and all of a sudden I am in a team that is playing in decent stadiums with good crowds and people who are paying to watch you.

“It’s a lot different to playing youth team games or reserve matches where there are 10 or 15 people there.

“Being here is making it more about winning and it’s more competitive.

“As a young lad, that’s what I want and I hope to get a lot more games under my belt and help Kettering pick up some more good results.”

The Blue Square Bet Premier can often be underrated.

Yet, it seems to be the division that benefits the most when Premier League and Championship clubs want their youngsters to get game time.

And it has results as was seen earlier this week when goalkeeper Mark Halstead, who was on loan with Kettering earlier this season, made his Premier League debut for Blackpool as a substitute in the 3-1 home defeat to Chelsea.

The Conference is a league that can turn boys into men with more physicality on the pitch.

And, as he looks to help the Poppies overcome Grimsby Town at the Elgood’s Arena tomorrow, the physical nature of non-League is something he has noticed.

“It seems to be a very physical league,” he said.

“You don’t get a lot of time on the ball so it’s often a case of just getting the job done without much pretty football.

“Sometimes in football you have to win games ugly and that is the way it has been recently.

“Grimsby is going to be a tough game but one thing I have learned quickly in this league is that every match is hard.

“It doesn’t really matter who you are up against, it’s difficult to get points.

“We have to work as hard as we did at Bath last weekend and hopefully come away with the three points.

“We knew ourselves that the performance at Tamworth wasn’t great.

“We didn’t show the right work ethic, especially in the first half.

“But we had that back at Bath and I felt we deserved the three points. It was a real sickener to concede an equaliser with 20 seconds to go but we have to take that point and build on it.”