Plymouth Argyle's Jamie Richards eyes more after taste of first team action
IN THE future, Jamie Richards hopes to be one of the regular centre-backs for Plymouth Argyle.
For now, the 18-year-old prospect is using the current incumbents, captain Darren Purse and 2011/12 player-of-the-year Maxime Blanchard, as role models to learn from.
Richards made his debut for the Pilgrims earlier this month when they beat Aldershot Town 2-1 in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Home Park.
He played all of the second round tie at centre-back, alongside 19-year-old Curtis Nelson, because Blanchard and Purse were both ruled out.
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Blanchard was still suffering from the after-effects of a concussion while Purse was suspended for one match.
Nelson and Richards both earned praise for their performances from manager Carl Fletcher as the Pilgrims clinched a place in the last 16 of the JPT.
The vastly-experienced Purse, 35, is always ready to provide advice and encouragement to Richards, who has been with Argyle since the age of nine.
Richards told Herald Sport: "He has been to some big clubs and played in the Premier League. It's great to have someone like that to look up to.
"If I do something wrong in training, him and Max will always tell me how to correct it to help me become a better player."
Richards has played at left-back in the past, as he has progressed through the youth ranks at Home Park, but the centre of defence is his preferred position.
He is among a crop of talented teenagers who have broken into the first team over the past couple of years.
His contemporaries include Nelson, Jordan Copp, Jed Harper-Penman, Matt Lecointe, Jared Sims, Isaac Vassell and Luke Young.
Richards admitted there was a good atmosphere among that group as they try to progress their careers.
He said: "I think it would be a lot harder if you were on your own coming through.
"When you turn from being an apprentice to a professional it's such a change of environment, so it's nice to come through it with people you have known for a long time. You are slowly eased in.
"They are my mates and I see them outside of football as well. There is a lot of banter between us."
Blanchard and Purse both returned to action for Argyle when they won 4-1 at Barnet in League Two last Saturday.
Richards was an unused substitute at Underhill, but after his successful debut he has set his sights on more first team football at some point.
He said: "I'm not going to rest on my laurels and think, 'I have made my debut, that's it'. I want to keep pushing and, hopefully, get a few more games this season."