Derby County youngster Mason Bennett happy to stay off radar as he continues development
WILL Hughes' rise from Academy player to Championship starlet has removed the spotlight off Mason Bennett but the young striker is not complaining.
Hughes and Bennett have played together through the age groups at Derby County.
Bennett, at 16, is a year younger than Hughes and was the first to break into the senior side.
He had made three appearances, two of them starts, and had become the club's youngest-ever player before Hughes made his senior debut as a late substitute at Peterborough in November 2011.
Cheap Van Insurance(Commercial & Private Use) - Contact Insure365...View details
Cheap Van Insurance(Commercial & Private Use) - Contact Insure365 01782 898188. Free Legal Protection Included Valued at £25.00
Terms: 1 Voucher Per Customer
Contact: 01782 898188
Valid until: Friday, June 21 2013
Hughes kicked off this season in the first team and the 17-year-old has featured in all of the 31 fixtures. He has started 30, an incredible achievement.
Bennett has made four appearances this season, all of them as a substitute. Virtually all of his football has been with the under-21 and under-18 sides.
"This season, although there is still a lot of expectation on me, it just feels as though I have gone off the radar a bit but I think that is making me a better player," he said.
"A lot of people have asked me whether I am jealous of Will and I have always said of course I'm not.
"We have come through together and I am delighted for him.
"He's so relaxed on the pitch, he takes everything in his stride.
"Will is not a physical player and I don't think people expected him to find the transition to Championship football so easy but he is calm on the ball. He relaxes and just plays."
Bennett scored his first senior goal in the victory over Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup earlier this month.
In doing so, he collected another club record as the youngest scorer at 16 years and 174 days old.
He admits the goal has lifted a weight off his shoulders and says his heart was pounding when he saw the ball nestle in the net.
"A lot of people expected me to score sooner rather than later because I have featured for the first team a number of times," said Bennett.
"The goal has definitely lifted that bit of weight off my shoulders and, hopefully, I can get a few more now.
"It (the goal) is a bit of a blur, to be honest, everything happened so quickly.
"I remember I got the ball from Conor Doyle and I just moved it out of my feet before hitting it low and hard towards goal.
"When I saw the ball hit the back of the net my heart was pounding and my legs turned to jelly."
The goal also made Bennett the youngest scorer in a round proper of the FA Cup.
"It does mean a lot but it is just another goal and it is my job to score goals," said the youngster.
"There were a couple of family members at the Tranmere game but, unfortunately, my mum and grandmother couldn't make it.
"They rang me straight after the match and I had messages and missed calls from friends and family.
"They all congratulated me and said how proud they were and my grandmother started crying while she was on the phone to me."
This is Bennett's first season in full-time training and he feels his fitness and technical levels have improved.
"I have been working on my first touch with Johnny Metgod," he said.
"It is important at my age when I am playing against experienced defenders that I give myself the best possible chance.
"It has been slightly frustrating not getting as much game-time as I was last year, even though at the time I was still at school but I have got to appreciate that there is a lot of talent ahead of me like Conor Sammon, Theo Robinson and Jamie Ward, and I am not up there yet so I have got to remain patient."