Brighton & Hove Albion under-23s midfielder Max Sanders is eager to ensure that his first-team inclusion against Liverpool at the Amex Stadium is the first of many in the Premier League.
The 20-year-old took his place on the bench for the contest with Jurgen Klopp’s men, and he spoke buoyantly about the opportunity afforded to him at the weekend.
He said, “I found out about two hours before kick-off that I was going to be on the bench, and I’d only been told that I was going to be involved at all on the Friday, which was a nice surprise to me.
“I’d been training for two or three days with the first team last week and I was over the moon, I’ve been working really hard and that’s been rewarded, hopefully it’s the start of many more chances.
“Training with the group improves you so much, and they’ve run one of the best teams in the world close today [Saturday] so it shows we’re improving and it’s great to be a part of.
“When there’s an injury in your position you’ll get asked to step into the first team sessions, and you know that you’ll have to perform or else you won’t get another chance.”
Fellow academy product Lewis Dunk led the side out for the game against the Merseysiders, and Sanders emphasised how much inspiration he and the youngsters in general at the club can take from the central defender's exploits at both club and international level.
“You look to people like Lewis as a role model – he’s someone to look up to as an example for any youngster, especially ones like myself who are also local like him.
“He’s someone I look to because he works really hard both in training and in matches.
“To get that first appearance for the first team would mean everything to me, I’ve been here for ten years now and worked my way through the age groups – so it would be amazing.”
The under-23s captain also represented England under-19s at the 2018 European Championships in Finland in July before sustaining an injury in the first game of the Premier League 2 Division 1 campaign against Liverpool.
Sanders then made his return to action against Blackburn Rovers in the league towards the end of October, and has played the entirety of the following seven league matches since.
“I was out for about 10 weeks, so it’s been about getting back up to speed and to where I want to be, now I feel like I am, and I feel really good.
“The under-23s have been doing well this season and it’s about taking it further now because we’re competing at the highest level – we’ve upped our standards and the group is progressing all the time."