Academy of Football duo Harrison Ashby and Sonny Perkins have been presented with their official Premier League debut balls after each making their respective first appearances in the English top flight.
Full-back Ashby made his Premier League bow for the Irons in the defeat away to Arsenal in mid-December last year, coming on as a substitute for Pablo Fornals.
Striker Perkins meanwhile earned his first Premier League outing in Claret and Blue in the home match against Leeds United in January.
In recognition of their achievement, the Premier League have sent both Ashby and Perkins an encased Premier League football from this season, including an engraving which marks their first match in the competition.
Ashby admitted to being surprised at getting the call from manager David Moyes but the 20-year-old was honoured to earn his first league showing.
“Playing in the Premier League is something I’ve dreamt about my entire life, so to receive this ball from the league to show I’ve achieved my dream is something that’s really special,” Ashby said. “Making my debut really surprised me, to be honest, because it was against Arsenal and it was a big game.
“The gaffer told me I was coming on and in my head I was telling myself to not mess up! I came on and did my stuff and I think I did well. I think I did myself proud and my family proud.”
Perkins had only been in the Premier League matchday squad on one previous occasion prior to his debut, featuring on the bench in the home draw with Brighton & Hove Albion back in December.
The 18-year-old was thankful for the manager’s show of faith for bringing him on against Leeds.
“It means so much to recognise my Premier League debut. I think everyone who plays football dreams of playing in the Premier League so, to have something like this to remember it by, it’s great for me. It’s a special thing to have.
“My debut, it was one of the first times I’d been in the Premier League matchday squads. Watching from the side-lines, you could see it was a tough game. Leeds were playing really well but it was great that I could make my debut in front of the home fans. I was really happy about that.
“It was an unfortunate result, but I think it said a lot that the manager put on a youngster like me to try and change the game.”
Club captain Mark Noble, who has himself amassed over 400 Premier League appearances since his debut in the competition in the 2005/06 season, had the honour of presenting the Academy of Football’s two latest graduates with their mementos.
The midfielder spoke highly of both Ashby and Perkins, having kept a close eye on their respective progression through the Academy age-groups and their work on the training pitches at Rush Green.
“It's great to present Harrison and Sonny with their Premier League debut match balls,” Noble smiled. “I think both have done well for us this season and will both be big additions for the first team in the months and years going forward.
“I think Harrison has been great when he’s come into the team. I think he has a real physical stature for the game and he is great, physically, as a player.
“Technically he is also very good, and for him it’s just about getting that experience around us and around the first team. When he’s come in, he has looked really strong. He fully deserved his Premier League debut this year.
“Sonny is someone that I’ve watched for a long time now. He started in the No10 role and he’s moved up to the centre-forward role for the U23s, and scored a lot of goals. His hold-up play is superb.
“He is another young, exciting player that we’ve got at the club and hopefully he can keep producing performances in the U23s. When he comes up with us, I hope he can continue to train well and gets into our first team.”