CHRISTCHURCH teenager Josh Hanratty could be on the cusp of a full-time move with Cherries and Aston Villa monitoring his progress.
The 16-year-old central-midfielder only made his first-team debut for Priory in November but has started six of their past seven fixtures after impressing from the bench in his first game.
Having spent a year with Southampton’s academy, Hanratty had a brief spell with Poole Town under-18s following his Saints release at the end of 2012.
Villa were tracking the youngster prior to his stint at St Mary’s and renewed their interest after a scout spotted him playing in a county match in Devon.
Hanratty’s Hurn Bridge performances placed him firmly on Cherries’ radar before Christmas but opportunities for Dean Court representatives to run the rule over the prospect have been curtailed by the weather in recent weeks.
However, Christchurch manager Michael Cuffie reckons it will only be a matter of time before someone snaps up Hanratty’s “special talent” and added any move to a top club would receive his full blessing.
Cuffie told the Daily Echo: “The biggest compliment I can pay Josh is that, at the age of 16, he has come in and improved our side. Several people have noticed his quality.
“It is a good thing for the boy and I am pleased for him. To be honest, I hope he is not here next season because if he isn’t it will mean he has moved on to bigger and better things.
“This exactly what I want to see from my young players, to perform well and put themselves under the spotlight and I hope something comes from it.
“He deserves this chance and it is a testament to the club that we give young players like Josh a platform to play.”
Meanwhile, Josh’s father, Lee Hanratty, had some complimentary words for the Christchurch manager.
He said: “Josh has been to a lot of clubs but Cuffs immediately made him feel really welcome.
“It takes guts to play someone so young in senior football and while he hasn’t let Christchurch down we are still very grateful that Mike was brave enough to take a chance.”
Priory hope to play their first match for more than eight weeks when they host Fawley in the Wessex League Premier Division tomorrow night.