Aaron McGowan is ready to challenge friend and mentor Shaun Beeley for a place in Morecambe’s starting 11 next season.
The Shrimps’ youngest ever Football League player put pen to paper on a two-year deal, his first professional contract, on Monday and admits it is a big moment in his career.
The youth team captain, who doesn’t turn 18 until July, said: “It’s a big landmark in my career. I love the place and I’m delighted really.
“It’s something I’ve worked hard for and to say you’re a professional footballer is a big deal for someone like me.
“To say you’ve been picked out of the crop is only the first step really, I want to keep developing and carry on into bigger and better things.”
Those include going head-to-head with Beeley, who also signed up with the Shrimps on Monday, for the right back spot.
McGowan said: “I’ve had a few chances and I’m grateful to the gaffer for giving me the opportunity when I’m so young.
“Now it’s about getting more serious and fighting for a first team place.
“Beels has taken me under his wing but it’ll be good competition and I’m ready to push him all the way.
“Shaun’s the senior pro and I’ve learned a lot. But my aim is to give the gaffer a headache, something to think about.”
McGowan has a similar playing style to Beeley, with both offering the Shrimps an attacking threat down the right.
The 17-year-old said: “I’m not your typical defender, I don’t really like to defend. I prefer to spend most of my time in the opposition half.
“I’d say for my age I’m pretty strong and powerful and I love a tackle. And in League 2 you do need to have a bit about you.
“I think I’ve got a big personality too. I’m a bit of a character for my age.”
His standing in the dressing room has been helped by travelling with the club’s most colourful character, Kevin Ellison, and captain Mark Hughes.
McGowan is confident that kind of team spirit can fire the Shrimps up League 2 next season. He said: “My car school last year was Kev, Hughesy and Robbie (Threlfall) who are three genuinely big characters in the dressing room.
“It was a lot to take on but they took my under their wing and I’ve learnt a lot off them, tricks of the trade and things like that.
“What we have got is a good team togetherness.
“Last season was a good experience in a way because the whole dressing room stuck together.
“That will only help us improve next season and hopefully there’s a top-half finish and who knows maybe we can have a run at the play-offs?
“We have got ambitions here. We’re not just about safety.”