14 Oct 2019 in Interviews
With seven starts, four substitute appearances and three goals, 18-year old Luke Merrill has been one of Curzon Ashton’s brightest lights in the first two months of the 2019/20 season.
The dynamic midfielder made his Nash debut against Kidderminster Harriers in December of last year and in the summer earned a permanent spot in the first team squad after starring for the all-conquering Under 18 side in their sensational quadruple winning exploits.
After time in the youth academies of Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers, Merrill came to Tameside two-and-a-half years ago where he credits the club for helping to reignite his love of the game.
“I’ve been in academies all my playing life, but when I didn’t get a scholarship at Blackburn that’s when I came to Curzon”, Merrill said. “My dad had heard good things about Curzon when we were thinking about where to go next so I came down here.
“It was tough being let go because I’m a Blackburn supporter as well, but I’d experienced it before when I left City’s academy. I wouldn’t say I’d fallen out of love of football and I still wanted to be there, but I’d stopped enjoying it a bit”, he continued.
“I didn’t have too much confidence in myself and I wasn’t enjoying playing at that time, but I found that again when I came to the youth teams here at Curzon. The confidence came back and I was able to kick on from there. I played a bit in the 17’s at the end of that season then moved on to the 18’s last year and that’s when I began getting opportunities in the first team.”
Reflecting on the Under 18’s quadruple winning campaign where he claimed the Players’ Player of the Season and Manager’s Player of the Season, Merrill said: “It was a really good year. We had a great team and a few of us have now made that jump into the first team squad now.
“We all just enjoyed playing with each other and played good football. The season before in the 17’s we didn’t win anything when we really should have so at the start of the next season, we set our sights on winning it all and we just went on a good roll.
“We had some tough games in all the finals, so we were delighted just to pull through and win it all.”
He also had praise for first team manager Mark Bradshaw for helping him on his way to senior football.
“My first session here I saw Mark. He was head of the youth team set up then and I had close contact with him the whole time. Duncan Welsby was my coach at the 17s and he was a big help as well.
“It definitely helped with the jump into the first team having Mark there. I’ve got a good relationship with him; he knows my strengths and weaknesses and I know that he has faith in me.
“He was speaking to me quite frequently towards the end of last season about what his plans were for me after the summer, that he didn’t want me out on loan and thought I could keep progressing in the first team. Having had a good end to last year gave me the self-belief that I could kick on and make myself a regular in the team.”
Merrill didn’t have to wait long into the new season before bagging his first Nash goal when he scored in the opening day thrashing of Bradford (Park Avenue) only ten minutes after coming off the bench.
“I was on the bench with Callum Saunders and we were both looking at the game thinking it would be a great time to come on and get a goal. I came on at 4-0 and it was a great feeling and quite surprising really to score!”
He followed that up with two stunning long-range strikes in the 4-4 draw with Blyth Spartans in FA Cup qualifying last month. Can he repeat the trick against the same opponents today?
“I’m not sure if I’ll be scoring much goals of that quality again! It’s rare for any player to do that, but the main thing is to make sure I keep getting forward into the box which the coaches have been on at me to do. If I get more goals, it’s more likely they’ll be inside the box rather than out!”