Jake Richardson has spent years behind the scenes at Portadown - but Saturday provided the teenager with a first taste of life inside the dressing room as part of a senior league line-up.
Family connections put Richardson’s roots deep into Portadown, thanks in the main to the role of grandfather George as long-serving team attendant.
However, Saturday’s selection for the game against Ballinamallard United arrived on merit for the 18-year-old right-back following his rise up the Shamrock Park youth system.
Nine months on from lining out alongside Shea Conaty and Jordan Lyttle in the thirds’ Harry Cavan Youth Challenge Cup-winning side, Richardson joined his two team-mates in the matchday squad at Ballinamallard.
A first senior start in the Danske Bank Premiership marks the next stage in Richardson’s development.
“I have grown up around Portadown Football Club so it was a big moment to walk out as a first-team player in the league and it means a lot to pull on that kit,” said Richardson. “Once the manager read out my name in the teamsheet it was just about treating it like a normal match and the other players were great as they did not make a big deal of it all.
“Senior players like Michael Gault, Keith O’Hara and Gary Twigg had a few words then the coach, Trevor Williamson, came up and gave me a few instructions about the player I would be marking.
“It was great to walk out in front of a league crowd and once I got my first touch and made that first tackle it helped settle everything down.
“I had not really played 90 minutes of football in over a month before Saturday so started to feel it a bit in the second half but was happy overall.
“It is great for the young lads to progress into the firsts and get invited to train with the seniors then, hopefully, make the squad and take that next step.
“I owe a lot to the coaching staff with the thirds and reserves and I just want to keep on working hard.”