Although still only 21 years old himself, Mansfield Town defender Ryan Sweeney found himself one of the more experienced players in a Mansfield Town shirt during Tuesday’s 3-2 Checkatrade Trophy win over Scunthorpe United.
With three youngsters making full debuts, two others in the starting line-up and another coming on as substitute, Sweeney and his fellow first team regulars spent the game giving guidance and helping ease the club’s stars of the future through one of the most memorable nights of their life.
“Against Scunthorpe on Tuesday the fans who came down got to see a lot of the young talent who are coming through and train with us on a daily basis,” said Sweeney.
“They were all excellent so it was a good night. It’s never easy making your debut as the level from U23s to first team football is pretty big.
“We talked to them to try to help them through the game. It was mostly positional things. It’s a learning curve and obviously I am still learning myself.
“As the gaffer said before the game – we’ve all been there and had that experience of making our first team debut. It’s one to remember.
“I played with Gibbo (Lewis Gibbens) at Macclesfield and I thought he was outstanding again, Jason Law at left back put in a fantastic performance, Alistair (Smith) has just come back off a loan period and stepped up and acquitted himself very well, and Blakey (Nyle Blake) scored a goal as well.
“So, as a whole, it was a really positive night for the club. That experience on Tuesday night will stand them in good stead for the future.”
Sweeney can still vividly remember his own Football League debut in 2015.
He said: “I came on as a sub for Wimbledon away at Dagenham & Redbridge when we were 4-0 down.
“I came on and played the last 10 minutes and then I started the following game against Oxford and we drew 0-0. They are fond memories.”
Now the Republic of Ireland U21 international is happy with how he has fitted into the division’s second meanest defence as he enjoys his loan spell from Stoke City.
“I think I am doing okay, but there’s still a lot I want to improve on to develop my game,” he said.
“It was always a transitional period at the start, getting used to what the gaffer wants from me.
“Now I am settled in I think my performances have gone from strength to strength. Hopefully that can continue.”