Cheltenham Town: Shane Duff's weekly column 'Shane's World'
YOUNGSTER Zack Kotwica has earned himself a professional deal with Cheltenham Town this week after progressing through the ranks in the youth set-up.
This is always pleasing to see, as it is a similar route in the game as the one I made a few years ago.
In recent months Zack has been one of a few youngsters to be involved in and around first-team squad and that's a promising sign from the youth set-up.
Zack is about to undertake a really intense education and every Cheltenham fan will join me in wishing him all the very best.
One thing that is always prevalent for me in youth team players is their inability to see what opportunity they have in front of them.
Many of them have succeeded where many have failed and made it on to a scholarship, but for many this is as far as it goes, and the disappointment comes as a shock.
I was talking to a lad last weekend about his football and he told me his story of being released by Cheltenham and how it led to him falling out of the game altogether.
It's a scenario that I am sure he would not have foreseen.
Cheltenham don't have the financial resources to purchase young players for a fee so if a player shows promise they will be given extra bit of time to see if development takes place.
This is where the youth teamers need to look at the opportunity they have.
A young player may be given an extra year or two at Cheltenham whereas at other clubs they may not.
The gap between the youth and senior first-team football is huge and I found it difficult to bridge in a short period of time.
When I got the chance of a trial with the first team for three months I was out of my depth.
The squad was full of mature men like Mark Yates, Chris Banks, Neil Howarth, Russell Milton, Jamie Victory, Steve Book, Jason White, Mark Freeman, Neil Grayson... the list goes on.
You can safely say that I got pushed from pillar to post. It was only when my mental approach to it changed that I started to progress as a player.
Lads in the youth team need to realise that for them to be pushed forward they need to be standing out at their level of football, and not just settling for being a strong performer.