Tivonge Rushesha targets senior football after new deal
Tivonge Rushesha is targeting more first-team football at Swansea City after signing his first professional contract with the club.
The young defender has committed his future to the Swans by putting pen to paper on a new two-year deal, which will keep him in SA1 until the summer of 2022.
The 17-year-old, who has been with the club since under-12 level, made his first-team debut as a substitute in August’s Carabao Cup victory over Cambridge United at the Liberty.
The full-back is delighted to extend his stay at the Swans, and has his sights set on further opportunities at senior level under Steve Cooper.
“It feels amazing. I’ve been at the academy for a while and everyone’s goal is to sign their first professional deal,” he said.
“Thankfully, I’ve been able to do that and, hopefully, this allows me to continue working towards reaching my end goal of playing in the first team.
“Now, it’s about working hard and continuing to develop.
“As a young footballer, my main goal is getting into the first team, and that’s what I want to do over the next two years.”
After breaking into the under-23 squad last season, Rushesha has been a regular feature for the development side this term – playing 12 times in all competitions.
The Zimbabwean-born defender recently returned to action after eight weeks out with a foot injury and is hoping to make the right-back spot his own once more.
“It’s been great to step up to the under-23s this season,” he said.
“It has allowed me to be exposed to better players and opposition, as well as playing with more experienced players in our team.
“Now I’m back, I just want to kick on from where I left off and get as many games as I can.
“The main goal is to solidify my place in the under-23 side again and be more involved in goals and be better defensively.”
A member of Wales’ under-19 squad, Rushesha’s solid start to the season was rewarded with a first-team debut against Cambridge in August at the tender age of just 17 years and 35 days old.
The right-back became one of the youngest players ever to represent the Swans, and it is no surprise that he looks back on the experience with fond memories.
“The day of the game was incredible,” he smiled. “It’s so hard to explain but it was such an amazing feeling.
“It was crazy looking around the dressing room and seeing players you’ve known growing up through the academy. Playing on the same pitch was surreal.
“When the gaffer told me to get ready, I did straightaway and I think he was surprised by how quickly I had!
“I had so much adrenaline; I couldn’t believe what was going on.
“When I stepped on the pitch, everyone helped me and once I made my first pass, it all quickly felt quite normal.
“That’s something you can’t take away from me. It’s great knowing I’ve accomplished that.
“Whenever I’m in doubt, I can always remind myself that I’ve done that.”
The teenager, who has trained with the senior squad at Fairwood on several occasions, is encouraged by the clear pathway to the first team under Cooper.
The head coach and his staff are regularly seen watching the under-23s’ matches at Landore – something that serves as extra motivation for Rushesha and his team-mates.
“All the first-team staff always make sure your head is screwed on and that you’re looking down the right path,” he continued.
“The gaffer is always happy to sit down and chat with you. He tells me that so long as I’m performing the best I can, it gives me the best opportunity to take my chance if it comes.
“It’s amazing when you see him at all the under-23s’ home games. Sometimes, he’s also at away games but, if not, other first-team staff are there.
“It’s great that the staff are visible and that we’re being taken notice of.
“It’s very important for us knowing that if we’re performing, we will be seen.”
Rushesha is now focused on repaying the club’s faith in him over the next couple of years.
And he knows he must continue to keep his head down for the remainder of this season and strive for further chances to shine in the senior environment at Fairwood.
“To make my debut so early was amazing. I was so pleased that all the staff had the faith to put me in,” he added.
“I now need to repay that by continuing to work hard and, hopefully, that will lead to more opportunities.
“Between now and the end of the season, training with the first team on a more frequent basis is important and, hopefully, the success continues for me.”