Carrick Rangers defender Kurtis Forsythe insists he is relishing his first full season of Danske Bank Premiership action.
The 19-year-old – who made his debut against Glentoran in December 2020 – has been an ever-present figure this term as the Amber Army aim to build on their impressive start to the season.
The Ballycarry native has made 34 appearances for his boyhood club – scoring once in an Irish Cup success against Belfast Celtic in April of this year.
However, despite flourishing under Stuart King’s stewardship, Forsythe was quick to point out that he owes former manager Niall Currie a sense of gratitude for giving him his first senior appearance.
“I managed to break through into the first-team around Christmas time last year and it has been a whirlwind ever since,” he said.
“This is my first proper year of playing Irish League football and I’m absolutely loving it.
“Making the breakthrough from the Carrick Academy helped me a lot as I know Scott Irvine (Carrick Rangers assistant manager) and the majority of the players extremely well.
“I have been at Carrick since the age of 12 and it also showed that there was a pathway for players in our Academy to progress into the first-team and learn from the likes of Jim Ervin and Mark Surgenor who have a wealth of experience.
“I’m extremely grateful for Niall as he gave me my debut and a platform to kick start my Irish League career and progress further.
“Since Stuart has arrived, the club is in a positive place, there is a high level of professionalism, we all love going to training and we are a tight knit group.
“I’m pleased with the number of appearances I’ve made this season but I know I still have so much more to learn.”
Carrick currently sit in seventh spot in the Premiership standings ahead of tonight’s fixtures as they face Linfield at Windsor Park.
Despite the east Antrim side going into that contest as underdogs, Forsythe knows that he and his team-mates can take confidence after securing draws against title challengers Larne and Coleraine in recent weeks.
“We haven’t set any targets other than we want to catch the teams above us in the table,” the full-back added.
“As a squad, we are buying into Stuart’s plan and we want to push as high up the table as we can.
“We realise we have made a steady start to the season but we are nowhere near done.
“There are no easy games in the league, so we have to keep working hard, digging in and who knows where it could take us?
“We know Linfield are a top-class team but we should never fear playing them. The earlier meeting between the two sides we lost 4-0 but I thought we started the game brightly and then switched off before their quality shown through.
“I think we have competed well in the majority of the games against the so-called big boys this campaign and we should have arguably taken more points.
“We want to win as many games as we can and if we can secure an upset along the way, then that would be even better.”
The Irish League is littered with talented young full-backs such as the likes of Lyndon Kane, Trai Hume and Adam Glenny to name a few.
As such, Forsythe insists it’s a positive sign that many clubs are willing to put their faith in youth players.
“There are a lot of good, young players featuring for teams across the country and it’s great to see,” he continued.
“Clubs aren’t scared to give them a chance anymore and I hope it inspires other young players across the country to make the step-up into the first-team.
“I’ve been blessed to learn from experienced pros so far and I’m sure it’s the same for all the other young players.
“The pathway is there but it’s all about working hard to get it and maintaining your standard.”