Port Vale’s 20-year-old defender Nathan Smith has been named the EFL Young Player of the Month for August.The prestigious award covers players that play in all three divisions of the Sky Bet EFL.
Well regarded within the club as a promising talent for the future, Smith has had a standout month in Sky Bet League One since making his debut for the club on the opening day of the season. Keeping four clean sheets and scoring three goals in 10 appearances, he has been key to the Valiants' good start that sees them currently occupy fifth place in the table.
Having signed for the club as an 11-year-old, the young defender is a graduate of the Port Vale Academy and has had successful loan spells at Stafford Rangers and Torquay United respectively.
Read more: BBC Sport - Nathan Smith rated highly by Port Vale boss
It’s been quite a month for the youngster as he scored the winning goal for Port Vale against Rochdale just two weeks into the season and since has signed a new deal to keep him at the club until June 2020.
On winning the EFL Young Player of the Month Award, Smith said: “I’m really pleased. It’s very unexpected but it’s one of those that I’ll remember for the rest of my career definitely. Especially with it being the first month of me playing professionally, I’m ecstatic about it to be honest.”
Manager Bruno Ribeiro was full of praise for the youngster: “For me, he’s a Championship player. In a few years, Premier League.
“At just 20 years old, he’s very strong. He is a fantastic player who works hard every day and I’m very happy with him.”
Each season, EFL 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 EFL clubs, making EFL Youth Development the largest centrally coordinated young player programme in world football. More than 200 players aged 21 or under make their professional debuts for EFL clubs each season.
The young defender joins a talented list of footballers such as Dele Alli, Charlie Austin, Danny Ings and Wilfred Zaha who have previously won the prestigious EFL Young Player of the Month award.
Smith added: “This award should give any young player hope, especially when you look at the past winners.
“To have my name alongside those sorts of players will give me huge confidence for the future. I’m a local lad which is nice and have come through the Academy here, worked hard when being out on loan and now I’ve been rewarded.”
Commenting on Smith’s award, David Wetherall, Head of Youth Development at the EFL, said: “To make his debut, score three goals as well as keep clean sheets in the opening month of his EFL career suggests Nathan has the talent to go far, and I look forward to seeing his career develop in the future.
“Port Vale have had an excellent start to the season and Nathan’s form so far illustrates just how valuable youth development is to clubs throughout the EFL.”
Each month the accolade is awarded by the EFL to a young player who has made a significant contribution and impact in first team football.