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Burwell's Harry Darling leaves Cambridge United to join MK Dons

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Burwell's former Newmarket Town youth player Harry Darling is ready to shackle League One strikers after being sold by Cambridge United to MK Dons for an undisclosed fee.

The 21-year-old centre-back, who was entering the final months of his contract, was the subject of a number of rejected bids, but the offer from the League One MK Dons, which includes a sell-on fee, met the U’s valuation.

“We are proud of Harry for the development he has made to this point and to have developed a player through our academy into a first team regular before transferring him to a higher level club, being compensated very well in the current market,” said U’s head coach Mark Bonner.

Harry Darling has left Cambridge United to join MK Dons. Picture: Simon Lankester
Harry Darling has left Cambridge United to join MK Dons. Picture: Simon Lankester

“This is an excellent example of the model our club should follow and further encourages us to continue developing strategies and opportunities for our club developed players.”

Darling, who grew up in Burwell, is a product of the U’s youth scheme.

He first joined the club’s academy at under-13s level, having spent a period in their shadow academy.

The defender progressed to a full-time scholarship, captaining the youth team during Bonner’s leadership, and made his professional debut as 17-year-old against Scunthorpe in 2016.

He has gone on to make 73 appearances for the first team, scoring three goals.

“This should serve as excellent motivation to all of our players who harbour such ambitions of what is possible,” said Bonner.

“We always believed Harry’s next step in his journey would be away from our club and the opportunity he now has will be a great challenge for him.

“Harry goes with our very best wishes, we are proud of his progress, grateful for his contribution across the club and excited by his future.

“We are also excited by our own future and continuing the progress we have made.

“This now opens playing opportunities for other players and we will add the appropriate competition and cover to our squad in due course, to enable us to continue competing at the level we have been."

MK Dons manager Russell Martin explained that they were planning a move for Darling in the summer, but it was brought forward after the departure of Richard Keogh to Huddersfield Town.

“Harry is a player we have been keeping tabs on for some time,” said Martin.

“We’ve watched a lot of him, particularly in the last few months and he’s been our number one target at this position.

“It’s an important position with the way we want to play and we’ve been able to go and get one of the best central defenders in League Two and one of the best young talents at this level.

“We were looking towards the summer as a time to bring him in but, with Richard leaving, it sped that process up. The chairman, Andy and Liam have worked very hard to get this deal done.

“It’s a significant deal for the football club and it’s an important signing for us, short term and in the long term as well. We’re delighted to get it over the line.”

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