Workington AFC's on loan centre half Tom Aldred is loving the experience of life on loan - even if it does mean taking a few blows for his troubles
A 2-0 victory away to high flying Corby Town was an excellent return for Workington on their longest away trip of the season, and an apt metaphor for their young defender Tom Aldred, who has had to travel a long way from home in order to pursue his dream of a successful career in the professional game.
The 19-year-old originally hails from Stone Clough near Bolton, but his quest to make a name for himself in the professional game took him a long way north to Carlisle United, where he has progressed from a youth team scholar to a first year professional, and is currently learning all about the sharper edges of the game by spending the first half of the season with Workington in the Blue Square North.
Last Saturday’s trip to the Midlands was one of the toughest tests he’s stood up to so far, but he came through it with flying colours, in spite of being on the end of some prickly treatment from a man once famed for ‘having a pineapple on his head’.
“To go away from home and beat a side that’s up at the top of the league is a really good result,” said Tom, who has earned rave reviews throughout the duration of his temporary switch. “I came off after the game with a black eye and three stitches though, because I was directly up against Jason Lee who has played up there in the Premiership with Nottingham Forest, and I think he did for me on purpose.
“He caught me on the side of the head with an elbow so I had to go off and get treatment, but I think I can take that as being a good thing because it’s something else for me to learn about the competitive aspect of senior football.”
The former Blackburn Rovers Centre of Excellence player, who got his chance in Cumbria after a medial knee ligament injury denied him his entire final season with the Premier League side, has got a wise head on his young shoulders, and has relished the chance to drop down the divisions in order to further his knowledge base.
“It has been a really good experience and I’ve learned a lot from it,” he explains. “I think it’s important to be getting first team football from a young age. If I wasn’t here playing senior games, I would probably be on the bench at Carlisle, so I’d be involved, but there’s nothing better than being able to get out there and play first team football.
“I’ve played in front of some big crowds and because it’s a more competitive competition than being in the reserves at a bigger club, you’re really playing for those points and gets you into the good mental habit of wanting to win because it really matters. We’ve been doing well, and it’s pleasing from my point of view that we’ve got one of the best defensive records in the division – that’s been one of our strengths throughout the season.”
His temporary manager at Borough Park, Darren Edmondson, has been hugely impressed with what he’s seen from the defender so far this season, and even in the aftermath of the recent defeat to Southport, he singled out Aldred as being ‘quality’, and added that it is ‘obvious that he will have a great career’. That kind of response is exactly what drives Tom, and makes him realise heading west was the best move he could have made at this stage in his development. He admitted:
“For someone like him to come out and say the kind of things he’s said about me this season has been a massive confidence boost, and he’s given me the belief that I can really go on and have a good career.
“I’ve learned a lot from Darren Edmondson while I’ve been here. He’s someone who’s got relevant experience from my point of view, because he played a lot of games for Carlisle, played in my position and obviously had a good career because Huddersfield bought him for a quarter of a million pounds, which means he’s always able to give me good advice.
“Viv Busby and Tony Caig have all been a massive help to me too, and it has been great to be working with people who really want you to do well. I’ve not got long left with those guys, but I’m looking forward to being able to play my last few games for the club and hopefully keep doing well and learning from the experience.”
There is no chance of the player managed by MyFirstAgent.com of being able to stay in West Cumbria any later than December 6th, given that he will have spent the maximum time permitted on loan under the terms of his agreement by that date. It means that his thoughts are now slowly turning towards what lies ahead.
“I’m always being told that there are people from clubs higher up the leagues coming along to our games so it’s good to have the right sort of people potentially noticing me because I’m keen to achieve things,” he says.
“I don’t know how things are going to pan out for the rest of the season, but the key thing is just to do well for the rest of the month at Workington and go back to Carlisle to see how things pan out. I just hope I can continue to play at as high a level as I can for the rest of the season to get some more experience, and hopefully get a few games under my belt at Carlisle.”
Another potential avenue for last season’s League One ‘Scholar of the Year’ is to pull on the jersey of a side even further north, having committed his international future to Scotland, thanks to his ancestry on his mother’s side of the family. Having played for their U19 squad last season, he was once again called into an U19 squad in error earlier this campaign, before it was discovered that he was now too old to play at that level, but it appears that he may still be in contention for a place in one of Billy Stark’s U21 squads at some point in the future. Tom explained:
“The next step for me realistically is the U21s because there aren’t many U20 games, but players can ‘play down’ in the U21s even if they’re a few years older, so that makes it hard to break in, but it would be good to get back into that setup because I really enjoyed it last year.
“I’ll just have to see how things go and really focus on things at club level to get that chance. The coach did call me earlier this year to see how things are going, so it’s good that they’re still keeping an eye on me.”
It certainly appears that plenty of people are keeping an eye on Tom. Now all he needs is for his own eye to heal after its fateful meeting with Jason Lee’s elbow!