LUCA Connell’s rapid rise from the sparsely-populated pitches at Lostock on a Saturday morning to a player on the edge of international football has given everyone at much-needed boost at Wanderers.

Times may be tight at Bolton but the 18-year-old’s inclusion in Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy’s squad for upcoming Euro 2020 games against Denmark and Gibraltar raised a smile among everyone – especially those who have seen him grow up from the age of nine in the club’s youth ranks.

Youth team boss Nicky Spooner will have a special reason for tuning in next week to watch the midfielder in action.

“He was actually my first signing,” beamed the coach, himself a product of the old Bolton school of excellence in his playing days.

“When I came in as development centre manager, Brian Morris had been doing the work on him to sign and he was officially the first name into the team at Under-9s level, along with Ronan Darcy – who is also still with the group.

“They came right the way through with me, the poor things, but it’s absolutely terrific to see how he has developed.

“Myself, Julian Darby, Jimmy Phillips – we were all here as kids – we know what it’s like to follow that path and play at first team level, so we’re all very proud.

“Mick McCarthy has definitely done us a favour there because he’s gone virtually straight from Under-17s last summer, bypassed the 18s and 19s.

“They (Ireland) had always been very complimentary about the way he conducted himself on the international trips and the coaching he had been given, so the whole academy are delighted for him.”

Connell joined the squad in Faro, Portugal, for a training camp yesterday where McCarthy seemed unconcerned with the youngster’s relative lack of experience.

"He deserves his opportunity," he said. "He has had a fine season with Bolton, playing 15 times in total, and even with their relegation troubles, he has impressed so many people.

"I know a number of big clubs have sent scouts to watch him so this is a chance to get him to work with the senior players and see how he gets on."

The speed at which Connell has moved from youth team to first team level has been quite unheard of in recent years at Wanderers but Spooner pin-pointed a pre-season trip to Spain last summer as the moment he knew he’d outgrown his level.

“We got back and I just turned to the gaffer and said ‘he’s passed me by now’ – he needs to push on,” he told The Bolton News.

“He got on to the first team radar and started to train with them and made the step up. But I think if you were a stranger, you’d think he’d got 50-60 games under his belt.

“He has always been a leader. It’s a rare quality for kids nowadays to be vocal on the pitch, most of them just keep their trap shut.

“But Luca has never given us a moment’s trouble. He’s willing to listen to instruction, he’s willing to dish it out on the pitch and he’s just so comfortable on the ball.

“When we were in Spain I had people coming up and praising his ability, so technically he’s got a lot going for him.”

Wanderers have also tied him to a third year of his scholarship deal, which should give them more security if one of his many suitors come calling this summer.

Spooner admits a growing band of scouts became difficult to miss last season in the Under-18s.

“We had a successful team and I think a lot of them came to see Dennis Politic,” he said. “Luca is easy to spot. He’s got all that blond hair, he doesn’t shut up, so I think over time they took notice.

“He’s always had a good family behind him – his dad and grandad give him good advice – and they keep him grounded. He’s had attention but he’s kept on working at his game, so long may that continue.”