Crewe Alexandra: Max Clayton coming to the boil nicely as progression continues
TEA boy Max Clayton says he is flattered, but not flustered as an army of top-flight scouts watch his every move.
The 18-year-old admitted he felt the pressure when he needed to produce brews for coach and cuppa connoisseur Neil Baker as a rookie squad member on Crewe's away trips.
But the forward has shown no signs of nerves since breaking into the first team this season, picking up the Football League Young Player of the Month award for August.
His performances have seen him earmarked as the next in line to Nick Powell, pictured below, and Ashley Westwood on the fast track from the Alex academy to the big time.
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But the teenager is determined to keep his feet on the ground – and believes those around him will ensure that remains the case throughout his career.
He said: "You might get praise from outside the club, but I try not to read or listen too much about it.
"If the club or individuals are doing well here then there are going to be scouts in the stands, but it's more important for me to just concentrate on my own game.
"We have seen Nick and Ashley come through and it shows the academy is doing wonders.
"When I was a lot younger there was interest from other clubs, but this has always been the right place for me, with the right people.
"Dario Gradi, Steve Davis, Neil Baker, my parents and (academy managers) Neil Critchley and James Collins look out for me and I listen to their advice.
"I hope I never get big headed."
And the tea?
"I was good at making tea by the end of last season," Clayton insisted. "I was getting marks of eight out of 10 at that point."
The perennially-smiling striker has scored three goals in nine appearances for Crewe ahead of today's home game against Leyton Orient.
But his growing reputation means he is already becoming a marked man among League One's bruisers.
And the Railwaymen have struggled to find the net over the last month, scoring just three times in five games.
Not that Clayton, who was a prolific scorer for the Crewe youth team, is panicking.
He said: "The encouraging this is that everyone is having chances, we just need to be more ruthless in front of goal.
"I had a couple that I should have put away when we drew 0-0 against Carlisle on Tuesday. I think I could have done better, but the goals will come.
"As a forward you get judged on your goals and I'm after quite a few more.
"The young player of the month award is the first trophy I think I've ever won, certainly since I was very young, but I don't want it to be my last.
"I don't think I'm lacking in confidence, but this just makes me believe that little bit more in my ability.
"I've had to figure out where I was at after stepping into senior football in League One, but I think I can handle it and I have people backing me."
Crewe manager Steve Davis never had any doubts about promoting Clayton from junior football for this campaign and believes his latest star turn can handle the limelight.
He said: "I've stuck my neck out and said that Max is going to undoubtedly become a top player.
"That's the pressure he's got and I'm sure he's putting that pressure on himself because he wants to do well, he wants to play for his home town team and get Crewe as high up the table as possible.
"He's a lad who takes praise very well, as Nick did."
It is an open secret that top clubs are circling around Clayton, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City all thought to be keeping close tabs on his progress.
Davis added: "He's a good lad and easy to work with. He listens and asks questions because he wants to improve. He knows he's got to work on his game in certain areas, but he's progressing well.
"A couple of clubs are looking at him because he's in the spotlight at the moment, playing for England under-19s and getting regular football in League One at 18 years of age.
"But he's very level-headed. He doesn't get too high and he doesn't get too low, always smiling and bubbling around the place, and that character helps him."