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28 April 2015

Weekend debutant Joe discusses his big day

Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship draw at home to Blackburn Rovers was a game that Town defender Joe Wilkinson will never forget.

The Academy graduate made his professional debut in front of a gate of 17,056 at the John Smith’s Stadium, playing an hour in a pulsating encounter.

Yorkshireman Joe didn’t find out he was in line for a start until Manager Chris Powell told him on the morning of the game in the pre-match meeting at PPG Canalside, as Joe explained to today.

“I think it was around noon. The Manager had a word with Tommy Smith to tell him he was playing on the left and then a couple of minutes later he called me over. His first words were ‘welcome to professional football – you’re starting on the right!’

“I was surprised to get the call, because there were more senior players in the squad. When I was walking into the ground he told me he had called my Mum and Dad to make sure they were coming; that took me by surprise too!”

Making his senior debut had been Joe’s dream since he joined Town as a 12 year-old from local side Dewsbury Rangers. 

He continued: “It was an unbelievable experience; something that I’ve been working hard to get to. That’s always been the goal.

“It was different to anything I’ve experienced before, because I’ve never played in front of a crowd like that. I thought I would be really nervous, but as soon as the first whistle went all the things I’ve been taught to do fell into place.” 

The 19 year-old was very appreciative of the support he received on the afternoon from the Town players and faithful alike:

“I noticed how supportive of me the fans were, especially when they applauded me as I came off. That was unbelievable. I thought their support was great all the way through the game.

“All the players were top notch too. Mark Hudson was outstanding with me - he communicated a lot throughout the game and really helped me out – and in the warm-up Joel Lynch told me to do the things that had got me here and not to try and overplay.”  

Unsurprisingly, Wilkinson now wants to ensure his first taste of senior action is just the start of a prolonged career.

“It’s left me wanting more! My aim now is to keep progressing and to try to force my way into the First Team squad regularly. I know I have to keep working hard to try and reach those standards every week. 

“I’m still only young so I hope that if I keep working hard, more will come.”

For now Wilkinson has some unfinished business with the Club’s Under-21 side, which is set to take on Crystal Palace in the Professional Development League 2 Play-Off semi-final shortly (date TBC).

Joe continued: “It’s been a really good year; one that has passed quickly. I feel like I’ve learned a lot under Frankie Bunn in the Under-21s, as all the work we do is with the goal of getting into the First Team. He makes sure we do things properly every single day. 

“Whereas you might get away with a mistake in the Under-21s, you definitely don’t in the First Team. It’s about being disciplined and honest as a footballer. 

“We have quite a young group, but we’ve actually played together for around three seasons now. Knowing each other for that long and coming through the Under-18s together has helped.

“It’s always good being involved in the Play-Offs; I’ve been lucky enough to play in two already. If we can progress against Crystal Palace and win, it would cap a great season.”

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