Justin Walker was thrilled with his Derby County Under-19s side after they excelled on their debut in the UEFA Youth League with a 2-0 win at Belarusian side FC Minsk.
Entrants to Europe’s premier youth competition as a reward for a title-winning 2018/19 campaign, Walker’s team secured a commanding first leg lead thanks to Morgan Whittaker’s brace.
The Rams are now firm favourites to reach Round Two, but Walker believes that his side can still improve, despite a seriously impressive away display.
He said: “We can do things better, for sure, but it’s the first time that we have been exposed to this competition.
“I’m delighted, it’s a professional job. We have done what we needed to do and given ourselves the best shot.
“We are very privileged, we worked hard for this opportunity and hopefully we go about [the second leg] in the same way we did today and maximise that opportunity.”
Whittaker’s brace came in the form of a first half penalty which was confidently converted, and a crisp finish in the closing stages after great work from Louie Sibley in midfield.
Walker reserved special praise for the performance of his forward, who scored his 30th goal since the start of last season.
“To be honest, that’s the best that I’ve seen him play,” Walker admitted.
“He is developing brilliantly, his influence on the game today was outstanding and he thoroughly deserved his two goals.”
After starting the season with the Under-23s, the likes of Jordan Brown, Louie Sibley and Morgan Whittaker came back to play with the teammates that they achieved so much with last season.
Walker felt that the togetherness of the group had a positive impact, on and off the pitch.
He explained: “There was a nervous energy because everybody wants to do well.
“We have had four days away, it’s the first time that this group of players have played together all season because of where they are individually back home.
“It’s been great to be back together because there is a really great spirit about them and it’s an exciting opportunity to play in this competition.”