The rise of Colchester United teenager Tom Lapslie

Tom Lapslie, on his League debut

Tom Lapslie, on his League debut - Credit: Su Anderson

Give youth a chance – that’s the message emanating from Colchester United.

Tom Lapslie, the latest U’s teenager to emerge from the Academy into the first team, has praised the Essex club for its role in giving young talent a chance. Central midfielder Lapslie snapped at the heels of Leyton Orient opponents all afternoon, during an impressive league debut which yielded a valuable 2-0 win last weekend.

Like his predecessor before him – Joe Dunne – current boss Tony Humes has been quick to give Academy products a chance on the big stage.

Tosin Olufemi, Drey Wright, Alex Gilbey, Macauley Bonne, Sammie Szmodics, Frankie Kent and Michael O’Donoghue have all made their U’s debuts, as teenagers, over the last couple of seasons.

And Lapslie, together with winger Dion Sembie-Ferris, have been the latest to negotiate the step up from the under-21 development level to League One over the last month.

“Colchester United is a great club to be at,” enthused Lapslie.

“For me, personally, it’s great because the chairman (Robbie Cowling) and the manager (Humes) always gives us a chance, with the likes of Sammie (Szmodics), Frankie (Kent) and Macca (Bonne) all getting opportunities.

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“Everyone gets their chance in the team, so it gives you motivation to work hard in training, and hopefully get your chance, like I was given against Leyton Orient.”

Lapslie’s story, and rise to fame, will give genuine hope for other teenagers hoping to break into the professional ranks.

“I’ve been at Colchester since the age of 16,” explained Lapslie.

“I played Sunday League up until then, for my local team, Ongar Juniors, and played for Maldon Town for a couple of seasons.

“Then at the end of the under-15 season, and for the start of the under-16s season, I came to Colchester, and joined them.

“I loved every minute of last weekend, and would love to play against Bradford this Saturday. But that’s up to the manager and what he decides to do.”

Looking back over the last two or three years, midfielder Gilbey made his league debut, just a day before his 18th birthday in December, 2012. He has already rattled up 57 league games for the U’s.

Similarly, winger Wright celebrated his league debut as a 17-year-old, and has so far played 38 league games, although he has been ruled out of this season with cruciate ligament damage.

Left-back O’Donoghue, another out for the season with a cruciate injury, made his senior debut at Barnsley last November. Sembie-Ferris had his first league outing as a substitute against Walsall last Saturday week.

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