By George Williamson
Tranmere Rovers goalkeeper Paddy Wharton hailed team-mate Scott Davies the “best keeper in the league” after the 30-year-old returned to action on Saturday against Leyton Orient after suffering a quad tear on New Year’s Day against AFC Fylde.
Wharton, 17, has been featured a number of times on the bench this season, including in the 3-2 win over Maidenhead in January after fellow keeper Luke Pilling suffered an illness and Davies continued rehab on his injured quad.
And although Wharton benefited somewhat from Davies’ albeit temporary absence, the youngster believes the experience of Rovers’ Number One played a part in his return ahead of schedule.
He said: “He’s been playing for a long time now and he’s got a lot of experience.
“He’s a top keeper, probably the best in the league, and he can read the game better than most.
“He’s someone I look up to.
“It’s always a proud moment to be a part of the first team squad, but hopefully I can go one step further and make my debut (in the near future).”
Wharton signed his first contract for Rovers in May 2017 after being at the club since the age of 12, but he’s not resting on his laurels after penning his first professional contract.
He said: “The feeling of signing my first contract was amazing.
“It’s something dreams are made of, but it’s only the start.
“I have to earn the right to be a professional and work my way up the ranks.”
At least for the short-term, those ranks have become increasingly harder to climb after the club signed Rhys Taylor from AFC Fylde to cover Davies’ injury in January.
Combine that with Pilling’s seniority over Wharton, and the 17-year-old sits 4th on Rovers’ goalkeeping depth chart.
Despite that, he insists he’s content with his role right now, but is open to departing on loan if Micky Mellon asks him to.
He said: “(Leaving on loan) is up to the club.
“If they believe it’s better for me to go out on loan then that’s great and I’ll do that, but I’m happy with the youth team as we’re doing well this year.”
Congratulations to 17 year old Paddy Wharton after making the bench in Tranmere’s 1st team in their 3-2 home win today @paddywharton1 @TranmereRovers #tranmere #tranmererovers #hosoccer #hosocceruk #goalkeeper #congratulations pic.twitter.com/p5n0bSnf7d
— HO SOCCER UK (@HOSoccer_UK) January 20, 2018
Although Wharton has been heavily involved with the youth team this season, he’s also been in and around the first-team dressing room sporadically, and he feels the side have a real chance to get back into the Football League.
He said: “The mood (in the dressing room) is great, but it often all depends on the result.
“The better the result, the better mood everyone’s in!
“I definitely think we can go on and win the league, and there are a lot of games left to play but hopefully it can be done.”
Despite being just 17, Wharton has lofty career ambitions, and after penning a professional contract, he has every opportunity to go out and achieve them in the future.
When asked where he saw himself professionally in five years, he said: “In five years I hope I’m playing high up in English football.
“My overall goal, though, is to become a regular for Tranmere Rovers.
“That would be a dream come true.”
They say opportunity breeds success, and Wharton will need to take them when they arise, but as Davies’ injury has proven, the chance to get on the pitch for the first team can come at any moment, and he’ll need to be ready for that day when it arrives.