the npl

Weekly News - 4/2/21

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Weekly News - 4/2/21

Former Matlock Town teenage star Zak Brunt’s full time career took another major step forward on Tuesday night when he was named as one of the substitutes for the Blades’ in their crucial Premier League relegation clash with West Bromwich Albion at Bramall Lane.

United won the game 2-1 and it was the first time Brunt had made the first team squad for a game in the top tier. He had previously been named as a United substitute for a Carabao Cup tie with Burnley in September.

The Chesterfield born Brunt had actually started out at United as he trained with their youth teams. Spells at Aston Villa and both Manchester clubs followed, but fed up with the game in England, Brunt moved to Spain but red tape prevented him signing for the likes of Athletico Madrid who were keen on adding him to their ranks.

Brunt returned to the UK and joined Derby County who at the age of just 15, priced him at £120,000.

With clubs shy at splashing out that kind of money for a 15 year old, he moved to Matlock and this is where his epic journey to the higher echelons of the game began.

He signed for the Gladiators in November 2017, a day before his 16th birthday and it was not long before he progressed to Matlock’s first team, combining NPL soccer, and winning a relegation battle with Matlock to boot, with appearances for the club’s academy team and studying for his GCSE’s.

Brunt was an instant hit with the Matlock supporters as he competed pace for pace and tackle for tackle against seasoned non league players.

Sheffield United and other professional clubs became aware of Brunt’s rapid progress and it was the Blades who persuaded him to sign on the dotted line in the summer of 2018.

Brunt, in spite of his tender years, had joined in the banter with the first teamers at Matlock with the confidence which he had shown on the field, and when he left, he had nothing but praise for Matlock.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to Matlock Town Football Club, the staff and the supporters. My experience with the Gladiators has been invaluable to me and it’s put me in a good place mentally for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Brunt, whose story was part of a TV documemtary on young aspiring footballers with his time at Matlock being particularly prominent, has clearly worked hard as a full timer since. He has netted five times in eight appearances for the Blades’ under 23’s this season.

Brunt did not make it on to the field against West Brom, but he has had a taste, albeit from the sidelines of Premiership action. Hopefully the final part of his fairy tale journey from the Proctor Cars Stadium to the glory of the Premier League is just around the corner.

Meanwhile two more recent former Matlock players featured in the recently closed January transfer window,

Winger Dan Bramall who joined the Gladiators at the beginning of the 2019/20 season after being released by Everton, has moved from Barnsley to League Two newcomers Barrow. This move was followed by Joe Bunney joining Grimsby Town. Bunney played just two matches, both 1-0 wins at South Shields and Grantham Town, (claiming assists in both games) before Hartlepool came in for him. Bunney was unattached prior to going to Blundell Park.

Ian Richardson