Zayn Hakeem targets first team breakthrough after signing first Mansfield Town pro deal
Teen striker Zayn Hakeem is targeting a first team breakthrough after signing his first pro deal with Mansfield Town.
Hakeem put pen to paper until the end of the 2018/19 season after impressing in the Stags’ youth team.
The Antigua and Barbuda U20 international was a stand-out performer during last season’s Football League Youth Alliance title-winning campaign and made his senior debut last season against Cambridge United.
A delighted Hakeem said: “The main target is to score more goals and assists this season and really try and knock on the door of the first team and be in and around the first team, that would be great.
“There are a lot of good forwards at the club at the moment. We have four really strong and experienced strikers and if I can learn off them and improve off them then maybe next year I can take that into the Football League.
“I’m over the moon to sign my first professional contract. I’m happy to be at the club. I want to thanks the gaffer (Adam Murray), Karl (Hawley), Coops (Richard Cooper), Demps (John Dempster), Scott Rickards, all the youth team coaches. It’s overwhelming really.
“It’s what you dream of from the start of the scholarship, even from when you’re young, to sign your first professional contract and hopefully I can just kick on from here now.
Hakeem was picked up by Stags when he was released by Nottingham Forest aged 16 after he broke his leg.
And the youngster feels he has the best possible coaching staff around him to help him successfully break into the first eleven.
“There’s a big difference between training with the youth and first team obviously,” he added.
“There is a step up in intensity. The first team is faster, it’s more physical and more demanding, it’s hard to get used to, but when you keep training you get used to it.
“I’m still getting used to it, it’s better when you have the type of coaches we do who encourage you and give you confidence, even when you have a bad session.
“Karl Hawley has taught me a lot about instincts in the box, moving my feet quicker, making runs in the box and knowing where to be.
“When I’ve taken it to youth level I’ve socred more goals and hoepfully I can take it in to the first team one day.
“Adam murray is very good with the young players, he guides us - he knows we’re not finished yet and helps us get a bond with the team and be confident -
he will give you opportunities.”