Mahlon Romeo – Youth Watch

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A revelation in recent weeks since his debut in our 3-0 win away to Walsall, Mahlon Romeo has quickly become a fan favourite and cemented his place in the team as our first choice right back. Known for his undoubted raw pace, along with his composure on the ball, we’ve somehow unearthed a hidden gem. It was the perfect debut at the Bescott Stadium, with a superbly taken goal and a clean sheet; the most important for any defender.

Romeo started his youth career as a school boy at the prestigious Arsenal academy at the age of 14, then a winger he had spent two years with Arsenal before being deemed not good enough for the high standards set at The Gunners and was released in 2012. In the same summer he had signed a two-year scholarship with Gillingham, forming part of their under 18’s side and earning a youth loan to Dover Athletic in January 2013 having his first taste of senior football. Going on to make only one appearance for The Gills in his three years with the club, Romeo left in search for a new challenge, earning his move to The Lions.

During the latter stages of his spell at Gillingham the young full back earned a senior call up to the international scene with Antigua and Barbuda, playing a part in the country’s attempts to secure qualification for the World Cup. Romeo has also provided versatility for his side, playing down the right flank whether it be full back or lining up as a winger.

Having signed for the club last summer for the development squad, he is a clear example for any to follow that if you take your chance in the senior side you’ll stay in the side. Which is exactly manager Neil Harris has promised throughout the whole season, with the like of Thompson, Nelson and Onyedinma all having runs in the side this season. The club deserve credit, with the new recruitment team finding these younger players and getting them into the club, and then the rest of the work is done by Neil Harris and under 21’s manager Justin Skinner. Playing the same style of football and setup in the 21’s then benefits players who make the step up to the first team, knowing exactly their role in the side when the opportunity presents itself.

Since coming into the side, as a fan it’s refreshing to see a talent such as Romeo get a chance to play, having seen Romeo play a number of games now I can’t help but compare the youngster to Carlos Edwards. Having Edwards around the squad he provides the perfect mentor for Romeo, with Harris praising the influence Edwards has on the squad due to his tonnes of experience. Calm on the ball and willing to look for the pass, along with his undoubted pace with and without the ball, you wouldn’t be surprised if I was mentioning Edwards with that sentence. Instead it’s youngster Romeo who seems to have all the tools to go on and have a successful career.

We seem to have a conveyer belt of youngsters again, in a successful development division pushing for the title, as well as being the only League One side to reach the quarter finals of the 21’s cup losing to former Premier League side Hull, with West Ham, Hull City, Liverpool and Huddersfield the teams in the semi final. It’s all positive signs that the club is making a step in the right direction with Philpot, Chesmain, Mbulu and Romeo all grabbing headlines, the success won’t happen over night and the key is to hold onto these types of players for the long run. If we are forced into a sale, which the club promise isn’t the case we need to ensure we get the right price for these players.

Of course we shouldn’t get carried away, however the future is certainly bright if we can keep picking up these sort of talents in the future.

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