Max Hunt says the hard work has only just begun after he signed for Derby County from Matlock Town.
The towering centre-half put pen to paper on a 18-month deal with the Rams on Friday, realising a childhood ambition to become a professional footballer.
He has joined up with Derby’s under-23s side, under the guidance of Darren Wassall, while the club hold the option to extend his stay by a further year.
Hunt is no stranger to pro clubs having spent time in the youth ranks of both Nottingham Forest and Mansfield Town before he joined the Gladiators 18 months ago.
And now the 18-year-old is looking to grasp the opportunity with both hands.
“This is a dream come true and is what I have wanted since I was a young kid. I want to be a professional footballer, but in truth, the hard work just starts now,” he said.
“I’m happy to be here. I want to progress as much as possible and I have ambitions to just better myself every day and just work hard. At the same time, this is a great opportunity to work with some top-quality coaches every day.
“I want to be here for a long time. It’s a massive club, the set-up is fantastic, and I loved my time on trial.”
Hunt’s progress through the Matlock academy and reserves led to a first team contract in July 2017. A short spell at Belper Town got him accustomed to men’s football before he made his Matlock debut before Christmas.
He started in the Gladiators’ 2-1 win over Lancaster City in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division on 2nd December and his form had also seen a recent trial at Premier League side West Bromwich Albion.
“I want to say a big thank you to Matlock too,” said Hunt.
“Justin Tellus and the all the people in the development system have helped me as a young lad and gave me my first taste of men’s football, which was a big moment for me. I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done for me.”
Matlock will welcome a Derby County XI to Causeway Lane in a pre-season friendly ahead of the 2018/19 season, in an agreement which was part of the deal.
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