Given that he featured for the U18s and in the NextGen Series as a schoolboy before going on to be one of the standout players for the U21 team in his first season as a scholar, rapid progression is something that comes naturally to Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The next step in his development is involvement with the first-team, and whilst many have tipped the 17-year-old to make the breakthrough in the future, few would have expected him to be involved with the squad at this stage of this development.
However, Maitland-Niles, who has trained with the first-team on a regular basis in recent weeks, has travelled with the squad for tomorrow’s Premier League fixture away to Stoke City, suggesting that there is a good chance that the England youth international will be amongst the substitutes at the Britannia Stadium.
That would represent quite an achievement for Maitland-Niles, but he is not the type of player who will get carried away by this good news. Some players may get frustrated when asked to switch positions, but there were no complaints from Maitland-Niles when he was asked to move from his regular spot on the right-wing, where he impressed throughout 2013/14, into a deep-lying central-midfield position this season.
Despite some initial teething problems, Maitland-Niles has adapted to his new position very well indeed and further involvement with the first-team, perhaps in the Capital One Cup next season, seems likely if he continues to develop at this rate.