James Dornelly and Harley Mills

Academy duo determined to make the most of their opportunity to impress in pre-season.

Both James Dornelly and Harley Mills got a taste of first team action during the 2023-2024 campaign and it has certainly whetted their appetite with the defensive pair determined to make the most of the opportunity that is in front of them.

Dornelly is currently the only recognised right-back at the club following the expiration of Jadel Katongo's loan spell in the summer while Mills is set to fight it out with Rio Adebisi for the left-back spot with manager Darren Ferguson expecting Harrison Burrows to move on ahead of the new campaign. 

"It was good for me to get a taste of the first team environment last season and I enjoyed the chance that I was given," Dornelly said. "There are things that I need to learn, that goes without saying, but I am determined to work hard and give myself the best opportunity. 

"I learned a lot from Peter Kioso and Jadel Katongo when they were at the club, they both offered different qualities that are important in any player, particularly within the back-line. I made a conscious effort in the summer to ensure that I returned to training in the best shape, I wanted to hit the ground running and I feel like I have done that so far. 

"My focus is to train well and play well when it comes to the game time. Last season, I struggled a little bit in terms of cramping up towards the end of the matches, that is why I made sure I did extra in the summer to try and make sure that doesn't happen again."

For Mills, he too has had the perfect role-model to learn from over the last 12 months in the form of Burrows. "The numbers he hit from left-back last season was incredible and I am not too sure that they will be repeated at this level again, but it is something that I would love to achieve. 

"I feel the position suits the way I play.. In the modern game, left-backs are expected to do both sides, defend well and support the attack. I worked hard in the summer because I know there is a chance for me, I don't want to look back at this summer and season and feel that I let myself down. I want there to be any regrets. 

"It is nice that myself and James are coming through at the same time. Less than two years ago we were the full-backs for the Under 18s. We can help each other, but stepping into the first team squad on a regular basis has been easy in terms of the fact it is a young and welcoming squad. 

"The intensity is the main difference in training. You have to accept you will make mistakes, but the most important thing is that you don't let those mistakes define you. You have to forget about it in training and concentrate on the next phase."

James Dornelly and Harley Mills during training
James Dornelly and Harley Mills during training