GARY Rowett sees George Taft as a “project” for Burton Albion after making the young defender his first new signing of the summer.
The 20-year-old joined the Brewers yesterday after leaving Leicester City, from whose academy he graduated, shortly before Chris Hussey left the club to join Bury.
At 6’5”, he will provide height at centre-half that was sometimes lacking last season, whilst also providing cover at left-back.
And Rowett believes the former England Under-19 international has all the raw attributes to make it in the Football League.
“We’ve been aware of him for a while and we think he has got immense potential,” said the Pirelli chief.
“He’s athletic, he’s quick and strong, and we want to see if we can get out of him what we think we can.
“We’re always looking at adding height for set pieces, as we were quite a small team last season.
“George has got that height, and he’s got a great long throw as well.
“But ahead of all that, he’s a good player.
“He’s like any young player as he’s got all the physical attributes and just needs to work on the other side of things.”
Just out of his teens, Taft has some way to go before matching the experience of Ian Sharps and Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, who formed Albion’s first-choice defensive partnership last season.
But Rowett believes that the new signing can learn from the elder statesmen around him.
“We see him as a project,” he said.
“I think with Shane and Sharpsy we just felt as though we wanted some younger players.
“That’s another reason we brought George in, and he is keen to look at playing with the likes of Ian and Shane, who can help bring him on.
“It’s important to bring younger player in, and we’ve tried to do that, and get that balance of experience and potential.”
Being left-footed, Taft can also help with the balance which Rowett is very keen on striking between his centre-halves.
“That’s exactly what we’re looking for,” said the Albion boss.
“We’ve got Liam Slade, who has just signed a new deal and is a right-footer, and George is a left-footer.
“That balance is important.
“The great things about George is he can play left-back as well, and with Damien (McCrory) out, it will give us some cover on that side.”
Leicester-born Taft, who knows Billy Kee from his time with the Foxes, never broke through at the King Power Stadium, but has spent time on loan with Kettering in the Conference, Swedish side Karlstad, and Albion’s fellow League Two side York City.
“I know (Leicester coach) Steve Beaglehole and he believes he can go all the way,” said Rowett.
“He’s played in League Two so he’s got that experience.
“I think he’s ready for that next level so hopefully we can work with him over the next couple of years and realise his potential.”
Hussey left the club to rejoin the Shakers – with whom he spent a succesful loan spell – only a day after the club announced he had signed a one-year contract extension.
That new deal was automatically triggered by games the left-sided player played, but he and Albion mutually agreed to waive his contract extension for a second season.
“I sat down with Chris and had a conversation about his future,” said Rowett.
“He has realised that maybe he sees his future elsewhere, so we agreed that this was probably the best course of action for both parties.
“We wish him all the best and I thank him for his efforts at Burton.”