Published: 06:00, 26 September 2019
Gillingham defender Jack Tucker has thanked boss Steve Evans for putting his faith in him.
The 19-year-old was handed his first Football League start last Saturday against a team who many are tipping to walk away with the League 1 title.
“I was very grateful to get the opportunity,” he said, having described the appearance against Ipswich as a dream come true on twitter.
“It was a very special moment for me and it was a good challenge, especially to be trusted to play in such a big game, against a good team and in front of such a big crowd.
“I am sure you could have easier first starts. The gaffer put his faith in me to put in a performance and I am very thankful to him for that.”
Tucker had little time to worry about making that first league start. He was told in a team meeting shortly before kick-off and his parents were elsewhere.
He said: “My mum was busy playing golf and my dad was taking my sister around a university, up in Durham, so they were away for the weekend.
“They are always checking up on twitter and social media so they knew that I was starting and when I got on my phone after the game I had a few messages, they were following the live updates throughout the game.
“Once I found out I would be playing I didn’t have time to message people. As soon as you hear you are in the team you are in the zone and you don’t want to worry about telling anyone, you just want to focus on the game in hand.
“The good thing is you don’t have time to think about it, I was told I was playing and you just have to crack on.
“Once you are in the tunnel you know what you have got to do and it’s just another football game. I tried to put everything else that was going on to one side.”
He calmed the nerves by winning a couple of early challenges, facing a team which included big-money summer signing Kayden Jackson up front.
Tucker was taken off early in the second half as Evans switched formation.
“We were very unlucky not to get anything from the game,” said the Whitstable-based defender.
“Performance-wise we left everything out there. We were causing them trouble all game and the fans were fantastic. They kept us going right to the end. It just didn’t quite drop for us.”
It’s been quite a journey for the young defender, who joined Gills at under-8s level.
Last Saturday’s appearance came after getting off the bench in midweek against Bristol Rovers. His only other league outing came two years ago, a senior debut appearance against Portsmouth.
Since then he’s developed with loans at Greenwich and Hastings.
“It has been a good 12 years or so,” he said. “I have just taken it one step at a time, never got too far ahead of myself and taken each season as it comes to make sure I am here for the following season.
“I would like to think I am someone who will give my best every single game.
“I am always working hard in the gym and the training ground, I want to learn and hopefully the manager has seen that I am ready to take on any criticism.
“I just try and do everything I can to prove that I am ready and capable.
“I now have to just keep myself in there. The first one is always going to be a bit nervy but I have got that under my belt and hopefully I can strive on and make sure I put my name in the selection frame every week.
“If someone is playing in my place I will support them but if it is me in the team I will look to prove that I am the man.”
More by this authorLuke Cawdell