Player profile: Max Clayton, forward, Crewe Alexandra

Max Clayton has just a year left on his contract at Crewe. Photo: PA

Name: Max Clayton

Position: Striker

Born: 1994

Club: Crewe

Country: England

Many a talented young footballer has come through the Crewe Alexandra, and the latest looking to move up the football pyramid is striker Max Clayton.

The 18-year-old forward already has over 60 first-team appearances to his name for the South Cheshire club, having made his debut aged just 16.

He is a rising star in the international ranks, having represented England at Under-16, 17, 18 and most recently 19 level.

Despite being one of the most naturally gifted players in the lower leagues, the forward has struggled to shine on a consistent basis.

Clayton's pace and skill have worried a lot of League One's most experienced defenders this season, but he struggles to hold down a place in the team, as he is yet to find the back of the net on a regular basis.

As a slight player, he relies on his pace and movement to get the better of the more physically developed centre-backs he comes up against week-in, week-out, allowing him to score nine times this season.

To aid his progress, manager Steve Davis, who thinks very highly of Clayton, has utilised him in wide positions to ensure he isn't too easily bullied out of games by cannier operators, also allowing the youngster to show off his quick feet and intelligence.

The highlight of Clayton's season came in the Johnstone Paints Trophy Final win over Southend, when the youngster struck the second goal.

Clayton has all the necessary attributes to make it at the highest level, but he now just needs to focus on developing each aspect of his game to get there, and proving himself fully in the league in which he currently resides.

Premier League scouts are always present at Gresty Road, which seem to have turned the head of Clayton, especially since former team-mate Nick Powell made a £4million move to Manchester United last summer.

The problem, however, is that Clayton is a long way off being the finished article, and his refusal to sign a new deal with Crewe could see him leave in order to earn some extra money in the short-term, with Manchester United and Arsenal both tracking him.

If he were to exit before his time, Clayton could be left to sit in a Premier League reserve team, rather than play first team football with a side who know how to train up the best and brightest.

The likes of Dean Ashton and Danny Murphy were sold when Crewe believed it was the right stage of their career, who both went on to be successful top-flight players, whereas others, such as Jon Otsemobor and Eddie Johnson saw fit to leave, and never reached their potential.

Clayton now has a decision to make - he needs to choose between trusting other people's judgement, and stay with the Railwaymen, or walk away into the unknown.

Max is still a young player and is still learning. He has come into the side this season and done okay. We just need him to add goals on a consistent basis.

He is still adjusting to the level, like a few of them, and he will master it.

We will just be cautious with him to protect him.

We will push him on and not play him when he is not scoring or is low on confidence.

We are careful with our young players and protect their confidence.

– Crewe manager Steve Davis
Clayton has also represented England's youth teams. Credit: PA