Cambridge United reward former AFC Sudbury player Liam Bennett with his first professional contract
Great Cornard's former AFC Sudbury Academy star Liam Bennett is celebrating signing his first professional contract with Cambridge United.
The 19-year-old full-back originally joined the club on trial from AFC Sudbury towards the end of the 2019/20 season, before signing with U's partner club St Neots Town ahead of 2020/21.
The former Wells Hall Primary School pupil had told SuffolkNews a professional contract would be his reward if his progress was deemed sufficient. And after spending most of the last year training alongside United's first-team, that has duly happened.
Bennett, who was released by Colchester United's academy aged 16 before doing his scholarship at Sudbury, has signed a one year contract at the newly-promoted Sky Bet League One club, with an option for a further year built in.
Bennett said: “It is a big achievement for me and my family. I am delighted to be here and I can’t wait to get started.
"It has been a joy to be around the first team and I thoroughly enjoyed the last year.
“I just want to kick on now and reward the club’s faith in me by showing them what I can do.”
Red Lodge-based Cambridge head coach Mark Bonner indicated Bennett could spend time out on loan continuing his development in 2021/22.
“Liam has performed well last season in training with us and with St Neots in the early part of the season," he said.
“Similar to Ben Worman and the other young professionals it has been a challenging time and a year that needs to be caught up on next season.
“With this in mind, Liam could go out to spend time on loan at the highest level possible to make the next step in his development. He is tenacious, strong and has excellent energy.
“Liam is also incredibly focused and dedicated, and this determination continues to impress everyone. We are looking forward to see his continued progress next season in a programme that will carry more game exposure at a higher level.”
Meanwhile, Bennett's former AFC Sudbury manager, Mark Morsley, revealed his delight at the deal.
"What a great story of a young man with total believe in his own ability," he said.
"There is no one in our building who worked with Liam who would say he would not make the grade.
"I can remember when he started playing for the first XI, I had some concerns about his final cross and conveyed that point to him.
"For about the next fortnight every day he stayed behind after his academy time and worked, on his own, on getting that part of his game right.
"That told me a story and I am so pleased for the lad and his parents who are some of the nicest people I have met."
Bennett follows on from Tyler French (Bradford City) in the alumni from AFC Sudbury Academy who have gone on to earn professional contracts in the Football League.