Will Sutton says he views the upcoming campaign as a real chance to make further progress after playing his first 90 minutes of pre-season on Tuesday night.
The 19-year-old was part of a young Latics side which took to the field in the latest warm-up game against Bradford Park Avenue, with Sutton among seven players who featured for the full game.
The former Academy scholar played nine times for the first-team last season after returning from two loans earlier in the campaign and is now looking to make his mark after another solid start to pre-season.
“It’s always good to get the first 90 minutes of pre-season under your belt and as a player you feel much better for it,” said Sutton, who also featured in the previous matches against Bamber Bridge and Wigan.
“Quite a few of us were able to play full game and that’s the point of these matches, to get those minutes into your legs and improve your sharpness. We’d have obviously wanted to get a result and we probably should have done better with our quality but there’s more to it at this stage of pre-season.
“I was fairly pleased with my own game tonight. By 70 minutes, it became a bit of a struggle in the heat but it’s all about working towards that first game of the season.
“I was given my chance in the first team towards the end of last season and that was a bit of a test of character for me. For the gaffer to have shown that trust in me after I came back from loan was a real boost for me and is probably the best period of games I’ve had so far.
“There were some errors in there which I suppose is to be expected but I was pleased with how I performed and think I made a positive impact. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the results as a team but on a personal level I can only look back at those games and see them as a big step forward in my career.”
Having signed his first professional contract last summer, Sutton’s development was aided by loans at Witton Albion and Farsley Celtic.
Sutton was given his chance under manager John Sheridan after a number of injuries and suspensions towards the end of the season and that run of games has given the youngster the hunger to kick on.
“I feel like a different person to what I was 12 months ago. I’ve had a couple of loans and I’m now feeling the best I’ve ever done in terms of my football and fitness,” he added.
“My target is to now be in the manager’s eye-line for the season ahead. I know there’s competition in the squad but I’ve just got to focus on myself and games like these are good opportunities for me to make a name for myself.
“I’ve got to fight for me place like any other player. If another loan spell is what comes of it then I’ll look to try and build up my experience that way. It’s in my hands now and I’ve want to try and make sure I’m in that centre-half partnership.
“In Liam Hogan we’ve signed someone who is going to be massive for us. You can see how much of an impact he’s going to have on me, the gaffer has said that he will help me out a lot and I feel lucky to be able to continue to learn from someone like him.
“We’ve clearly got good players like Liam and Harrison [McGahey] but in games like this when they don’t feature, it’s down to me to show what I can do.”