TEENAGE defender Nelson Sanca intends to kick on again with Newport County AFC this season after being rewarded for a Football League breakthrough with his first professional contract.

The 17-year-old has agreed a two-year deal with the Exiles, following the lead of fellow teen Jac Norris last month.

Sanca enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2023/24 in which he made his first team debut against Tranmere in League Two and kept his starting spot against Salford and Bradford.

The central defender, who was named as academy player of the year, had previously been an unused substitute on 16 occasions and profited from training alongside and learning from the seniors.

PROMISING: Nelson Sanca made a breakthrough at Newport County at the end of last seasonPROMISING: Nelson Sanca made a breakthrough at Newport County at the end of last season (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“Last season I came from grassroots, and I couldn’t have imagined to have been in this position almost a year later,” said Sanca, who joined the Exiles on a scholarship after previously playing for Canton in Cardiff.

“Training and playing with the first team last year really helped my development. It gave me the opportunity to develop my weaknesses and become a better player.

“Making my debut against Tranmere in April was an amazing feeling. Playing in front of the fans and my family was brilliant, and is something you dream of.

“The academy has been brilliant to be a part of since I joined. They’ve played a huge part in my development and have always been there for me.

“Next season for me is just about kicking on once again. Work hard with the first team and try and play as many games as possible.”

Sanca will aim to put the pressure on senior centre-backs James Clarke, Kyle Jameson, Matt Baker and Ciaran Brennan along with fellow up-and-coming defender Josh Seberry, who had made an impression before suffering a broken leg last autumn.

The teenager earned the praise of then manager Graham Coughlan - who played in the same position - for his displays in a tough run-in.

“The big thing that you need to have as a centre-half is presence and Nelson has that in abundance, while he has something that I didn’t have in my career and that’s pace," said the Irishman.