Haydon Roberts has been named Albion scholar of the season at the Premier League awards.
The 18-year-old made his first team last in September in the EFL Cup against Aston Villa, when he scored and was named man of the match.
Haydon, who can also play in midfield, says he was humbled by the award, having seen the progress some of his teammates made, and he thanked under-23s boss Simon Rusk for his guidance.
“It was nice to win the award and get some recognition for the hard work I feel I have put in,” he said.
“I think I had a good season but there were a lot of other players that could have won it so in some ways I was shocked. It was humbling too, because to play alongside other boys that have had good seasons reflects how well I have done.
“Simon has helped me a lot. He is a really good coach. He has always pushed me to work harder every day. He has definitely helped me in the last two seasons to mature, because there were parts of my life off the pitch where I lacked a bit of maturity.”
Although the tie against Aston Villa ended in defeat it was a good learning experience for Roberts, but he wants it to be the first of many appearances in a Seagulls shirt.
He explained, “I try not think about the Villa game too much, because I want to make more memories like that. I don’t want it to be just that one game that I look back on, I want to look back on 300-odd games in my career, I want to be man of the match every time I play.
“I don’t want it to be my first and my last good game, I want to make more memories and hopefully I can do that if I keep working hard.”
Roberts, who joined the club in 2015, had been training with Graham Potter’s squad this season, an experience which gave him an insight into the standards expected at first-team level.
“I found it a really good experience. It was good for me to see the difference between the under-23s and first team and what I can do to get to that level - their attitude every day, how they act.
“The intensity and work ethic is on another level. Everyone is on it and nobody ever has a bad day. There’s a lot of leaders in the first team group. All the boys were good with me and made me feel welcome.
“I have learned a lot from the experience, I think it will help me.”
That pathway is open to all Albion’s youngsters, who are hoping to emulate Steven Alzate and Aaron Connolly and become part of Graham Potter’s plans on a regular basis.
Roberts said, “It’s good to know that if the manager believes you’re good enough, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ll play. For me and any other player in the academy it gives us an incentive to keep working hard. I think Aaron Connolly and Steven Alzate are good role models for anybody coming through the academy right now.”