With the Development League West season recently concluded, we take a look at four of the young talents ready to make an impact next term after making their breakthrough in the last nine months …
Alexander Easdale (Striker)
A frontman with excellent movement and an eye for goal, Under-17s starlet Alexander Easdale (pictured, top) recently made his development squad debut as a substitute in a 3-0 win over Albion Rovers at Celtic’s Lennoxtown training complex.
The 17-year-old followed up with another late run-out against champions Queen of the South last Wednesday, in which time he showed flashes of potential as he looked to cause problems in and around the Doonhamers box.
Local lad Zander began his fledgling career with Port Glasgow Juniors before being picked up by Premiership outfit Aberdeen, with whom he spent two years before electing to move on and pursue his football closer to home.
Ton head of youth Derek Anderson moved quickly to recruit the striker for his 14s squad, and he has steadily progressed through the ranks to the 20s, combining his schooling with full-time training as he aims to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Ben Eardley (Midfielder)
A dynamic and fearless competitor, central midfielder Ben Eardley has been in and around the periphery of Andy Millen’s starting line-up all season after signing his first full-time contract last summer.
Athletic engine-room operator Ben forced his way into the Under-20s first XI more so towards the end of the campaign, scoring his first goal with an emphatic header in the final fixture of the Development League West season.
Greenock-born Eardley, a former St Kenneth’s and Notre Dame pupil, first came to prominence in November 2012 as one of three Ton Under-14s players to be called up to the SFA regional performance squad.
The 17-year-old still has another year on the full-time contract signed last May and he will be aiming to establish himself as a fixture at the heart of the Morton 20s midfield in season 2017/18.
Lewis Strapp (Left-back)
An individual who will already be familiar to most Morton fans having made his senior bow in a Betfred Cup tie against Albion Rovers back in July and total of three starts, it is easy to forget that Lewis Strapp only turned 17 last November.
A barrel-chested left-back who reads the game astutely, competes like a player 10 years his senior, with excellent decision making, Lewis was earmarked as a potential star right from his early days in the Morton youth academy.
The Dunoon native, who recently spent a week training with Swansea City, has been a regular fixture in Andy Millen’s side both this term and last – as they clinched the Development League West title – and penned his first senior deal last September.
With a fellow academy alumni, talented full-back Mark Russell, presently occupying the first team slot, Lewis will likely have to bide his time before cementing a place in the top team, meaning at least another season starring with the 20s.
Jack Purdue (Attacking midfielder)
Attacking midfielder Jack Purdue is another player who has shown flashes of exceptional ability in his appearances for the Under-20s in his first full campaign at development level after signing a two-year, full-time deal in May 2016.
An individual who boasts impressive technique, vision, and skill, Purdue has sparkled in spells in his intermittent appearances for Andy Millen’s side, most notably when scoring a stunning injury-time winner away at Airdrie last September.
Former Under-17s boss Derek Allan is a huge fan of the 17-year-old and once described the former Gourock YAC kid as the best talent the Morton youth academy has produced since it was revamped in 2012.
Speaking in March 2016, ex-Southampton defender Allan said: “Our chief scout, Mick King, spotted Jack playing for Gourock YAC when he had just turned 15.
“In that time he’s developed into the best young player I’ve seen connected with the academy since its inception by a long stretch. That’s not me being disrespectful to the other boys, because we’ve had some very good players, but a compliment to how talented Jack is.
“I don’t get carried away with young players; you’re always wary about going over the top, but Jack has a real future in the game and we have a lot of scouts watching him just now.
“He’s an attacking midfielder, plays in that No.10 role, breaks forward, goes by people, slips people in. He scores all sorts of goals, he’ll score free-kicks, he takes the corners, he’s big, strong and will likely grow to be 6ft-odd. You’d pay in to watch him.”
Images: Gary Bradley