Albion youngster Matt Richards says he feels honoured to have extended his stay at the club, but is focused on the next challenge when the PL2 side travel to Middlesbrough this Friday night (ko 7pm).
Having joined the Baggies when he was 11, the central midfielder fulfilled a lifelong ambition by signing his first professional contract at the start of 2023.
Trust was placed in Matty early into his scholarship days in B71 when he established himself as a regular in Richard Beale’s U21s, operating in numerous positions and scooping the Academy Player of the Year Award for the 2021/22 season for his efforts.
Although focus is now on the next step in the youngster’s career, a trip to Teesside is next on the agenda for the 18-year-old, with Albion’s PL2 team targeting a return to winning ways at Heritage Park.
Matt said: “Albion’s a big club in my family.
“I joined when I was 11-years-old, so I’ve been here for seven years now.
“It’s been a hell of a journey, there’s been many ups and down but more ups I’d say at this point in my career.
“I’m looking forward to working hard and I’ve got another two and-a-half years here now after signing my first professional contract, so I’m buzzing with that and excited to see what’s ahead.
“Every time I put on the shirt it’s a massive honour. It’s a great club and there’ll be lots of kids around the country who’d want to play for a club like this.
“They’ve built me massively as a person, and as a player of course. But they’ve made me realise how important it is to be humble, be on time, punctual, professional, and they’ve helped me in other aspects of life as well.
“They’re small things but they’ve taken me a long way.
“When I first came here I was scared to get on the ball. But the coaches here have built my confidence to try new things, dictate play, start attacks, break play up and help those around me.
“When you first step up to 21s level, it isn’t a first team environment but it feels like that going up from the 18s.
“I knew I’d have to adapt my playing style and get unto pace with 21s football, but I was glad to get thrown in so early.
“Now it’s the next stage and as long as I carry on working hard, in training and in games, then I’m confident of making that next step happen.”