Twenty-one-year-old Hartlepool United defender Scott Harrison has been named The Football League’s Young Player of the Month for March.The award covers players that play in all three divisions of the Sky Bet Football League.
A quick and powerful defender, Harrison played a starring role for Hartlepool as they won four consecutive matches in the second half of March, lifting them out of the Sky Bet League 2 relegation zone.
Having lost the first two games of the month, Pools' upturn in form saw them concede only one goal in the next four fixtures. With some commanding displays at the back, Harrison helped Hartlepool to three straight clean sheets and a maximum 12 points from 12; claiming wins over Morecambe, Oxford United, Mansfield Town and Cambridge United.
Harrison also proved valuable higher up the pitch by scoring his first professional goal in the 2-1 win over Cambridge. Crashing home a half-volley in the 67th minute, the goal proved to be a vital winner, lifting Hartlepool clear of the drop zone for the first time since October 2014.
Born and raised in the North East, Harrison began his career at local rivals Darlington before moving to Premier League neighbours Sunderland at the age of 17. Following one appearance on loan at Bury in 2013, Harrison enjoyed three separate loan spells at Hartlepool before making the move permanent in February 2015.
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On collecting The Football League’s Young Player of the Month Award for March, Harrison said: “Winning awards makes you proud of what you're doing, it's good to be recognised if you're playing well, but I've never really won awards before - the last time I did was playing for my Sunday league team.
"It's massive for me; my family and friends are so proud. It’s great to win ahead of players across The Football League who have played unbelievably.”
Ronnie Moore, Hartlepool United manager, welcomed the award and praised Harrison’s form: “He’s been fantastic the last five or six weeks. When we’ve been on such a good run he’s been our best player.
“He knows what football is about, he’s been there and seen it. I think he’s good enough. If he keeps learning the role, takes on board what Sam and myself are teaching him, he can play top level.”
Each season, Football League clubs invest more than £60m on identifying, training and educating the next generation of football talent.
There are 8,500 young players between the ages of eight and 18 registered with League clubs, making Football League Youth Development the largest centrally co-ordinated young player programme in world football. Over 200 players aged 21 or under make their professional debuts for Football League clubs each season.
Commenting on Harrison’s award, David Wetherall, Head of Youth Development at The Football League, said: “From the non-league at 16, a Premier League club at 17 and now a Football League regular at 21, Scott has had experiences that will stand him in great stead as his professional career develops.
“On the pitch Scott has shown a maturity beyond his years with some accomplished performances in the heart of Hartlepool’s defence. Having signed a permanent deal in February, regular first-team football will now provide Scott the perfect platform for him to kick on and progress in the game.”
Each month the accolade is awarded by The Football League to the young player who has made the most significant contribution and impact in first team football. To be eligible the player must be either under 21 years of age or be playing in the season during which he turns 21. Currently around a quarter of all players registered with Football League clubs are eligible to be considered for this award.