Knowles looking to build on professional debut
Tom Knowles is still riding the crest of a wave after making his professional debut last weekend, but the youngster is well aware that the tough work starts now.
The attacker, who joined League Two side Cambridge United from Newmarket Town in 2016, was a second-half substitute as the U’s recorded a thumping 5-0 season-ending win over Port Vale at the Abbey Stadium on Saturday.
The Burwell resident, 19, made a big impression during his time on the pitch, capping it off by a setting up a goal for team-mate Billy Waters.
However, rather than rest on his laurels, Knowles is now determined to ‘knuckle down’ and put in the hard yards to ensure more first-team appearances follow.
“It still has not completely sunk in,” said the ex-Bottisham Village College pupil, who has had loan spells at Step 3 with Cambridge City and St Ives Town this season.
“I was recalled from a loan spell recently and was not getting in the squads at Cambridge, but that was still a good learning experience.
“It showed me all about the experience of being around a first-team squad on a day-to-day basis.
“It could not have gone any better against Port Vale — we won well and I got an assist.
“Now I have got to go back in June and make sure I nail pre-season.
“It is a case of knuckling down and continuing to learn.
“Joe (Dunne, manager) has been really good with me. He has shown if you prove to him you are good enough that he will play you — I need to keep showing him that.”
After his Burwell Swallows team folded, Knowles joined Newmarket at under-15 level.
He rose through the ranks at Cricket Field Road and eventually made his senior debut for the Jockeys in a FA Cup tie against Peterborough Sports in August 2015.
He featured a total of 12 times under the management of Kevin Grainger before Cambridge came calling, just as they had done for his former Newmarket age-group team-mate Harry Darling six months earlier.
Knowles did not grace the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division for too long, but he believes it gave him a good grounding for the future.
“I really enjoyed my time at Newmarket,” added the teenager.
“We had a really good team at under-16 level in the EJA and I went on from there.
“Playing for the first team was a big step up. All of a sudden I went from playing kids my own age to coming up against experienced players.
“It was a completely different kettle of fish and it really toughened me up.
“Some players do not take too kindly to be being beaten by a youngster, so they try to kick you. I learned a lot.”