“I THOUGHT he was excellent.”Praise does not come much higher than that for a young debutant. When it comes from a manager not known for public displays of effusiveness, it takes on greater significance.
John Sheridan raised a few eyebrows when he selected a teenager whose previous biggest match had been an FA Youth Cup third-round tie at Aston Villa to face the Sky Bet League 2 leaders. Away from home. In front of 10,000-plus fans, away from home.
But 17-year-old Ben Purrington rose to the occasion and helped Argyle to a 3-2 Boxing Day victory at Oxford United.
“I told him [in the] morning he was playing,” said John, who was without suspended Durrell Berry and injured Jamie Reckord.
“I said: ‘You’re playing – ring your mum and dad up and tell them to get down to the game to watch it. I am sure they are very proud, the way he played today. I thought he was excellent.
“He is only 17 but he has done a pre-season with the first team; he trains with the first team and he doesn’t look out of place.
“He’s been playing for the youth team, but he’s too good for the youth team. He’s a very strong runner; a confident lad, not overconfident; he does the right things and listens. He’s got his feet firmly on the ground.
“He has definitely got something – he’s quick; he’s strong; he’s aggressive. He’s got to learn with his passing and to change gear in his game, because he does play one pace – which in 100mph at the moment, but that’s a young kid for you.”
Things got interesting at the Kassam when Ben was booked just after the hour, but John said: “I told him to slow down and relax a bit but he’s young kid – enthusiasm is always going to be in him at that age.
“He played a big part in getting the win.”