Scott Harrison, signed from Darlington in 2012 after a successful trial, is one of my favourite young players currently on the books at Sunderland. The player - on loan at Hartlepool United - has been tipped for a promising future in the game by his defensive partner and former Middlesbrough captain Matthew Bates, a player himself who was set for a career at the top of the game had it not been severely derailed by five serious knee injuries.
When speaking to SportsMail, Bates said:
"Scott is a really good player and he has a great future in the game. He is only young but he loves heading the ball, reads the game really well and is actually deceivingly quite quick.
Scott is enjoying playing first team football instead of reserve and Under-21 team football and this is a good opportunity for him. It was a learning curve for him when we got beat 5-1 at Northampton Town but he will go through that again in his career. He will probably take more from that game than the two previous matches when we kept two clean sheets.
I am enjoying playing with him and hopefully he is enjoying playing with me. I’m looking forward to playing some more games with him. I do try and talk to him and he is very receptive to things and his feet are firmly on the ground and he listens.
He really wants to learn and because of that he has a great chance of having a great future in the game."
I've been banging the drum for Scott Harrison ever since I saw him play a string of games for the U21s alongside the hapless Kader Mangane early last year, where the youngster completely outshone the Senegal international in the ties against Everton and Middlesbrough. His cameo appearance for our first team in the Hartlepool pre-season game in July, in front of first team coach Gus Poyet, was impressive.
Bates described him perfectly - his speed, awareness and passing ability for a centre half makes him stand out a mile when playing in the U21s Development League and the hope, I suppose, is that Lee Congerton can get him a loan to a side further up the pyramid when his spell at Victoria Park ends.
Harrison extended his stay with Pools two days ago beyond the initial one month deal he originally signed which keeps him at the club until November, with manager Colin Cooper suitably impressed by the youngster's performances.
Cooper told the official Hartlepool website:
"We're pleased to get things done with Scott because he's a good defender who has done well since he came here.
He was keen to stay with us after his first month expired because he's really enjoying his football so we're delighted we've been able to get the deal finalised."
Harrison himself spoke to the Hartlepool Mail regarding his time at his new club, expressing his willingness to learn from playing regular football in a more physical league.
"It is a steep learning curve. I am here to learn, it is a tough league but that is why I am here. That is what will make me better though, learning what it is about and growing into it. The physicality of the league is totally different to the Under-21s. It doesn’t really compare to be honest, Everything is much more physical. The Under-21s isn’t too physical and you can get away with certain things and don’t really get bullied off the ball. Whereas, here, everything is a battle.
I feel like I am getting used to it but the last week has been disappointing. I know I am a lot better than that and I need to cut mistakes out of my game. You have to fully concentrate all of the time otherwise you will get punished."
Harrison has a chance to go out there and prove himself at a time where it's simply imperative that we produce more players for the first team from our academy, with Sporting Director Lee Congerton making it one of his primary aims in taking the club forward.
Jeff Stelling, the Hartlepool-supporting Sky Sports presenter, was complimentary of the player in his column for SkySports.com in April.
The 21-year old is very well thought of at Sunderland, and clearly has the work ethic, but he needs to ensure that there are no wasted opportunities when earning loan spells to Football League sides.