Mark Cooper has made his first official signing as Forest Green Rovers’ new manager by tying down Academy second-year midfielder Joe Stokes to his first professional contract.
Eighteen-year-old Stokes has put pen-to-paper on a one-year deal and is the club’s newest addition ahead of the start of the 2016/17 season.
Forest Green supporters will be familiar with the central midfielder after he made his first-team debut on the final day of the regular season at Dover Athletic, producing an accomplished and confident performance in a 1-0 win against a side Forest Green would go onto defeat in the play-off semi-finals.
He has also appeared in the club’s successful Gloucestershire Senior Cup winning squad this season and first joined as a 16-year-old following his release by Swindon Town.
He’s enjoyed two successful years under the management of head of youth Scott Bartlett in the Academy set-up.
He’s been a part of the Academy squad that has won the South West Counties Youth League and Gary Else Memorial League Cup in back-to-back seasons.
Commenting after signing his first professional contract Stokes said: “It’s a great achievement and something I’ve been working for since I can remember.
“It has been a great experience with the Academy squad over the past two years – I’ve played with some great players and learned different bits from every one of them.
“I want to try and push to be in the first-team and take on board everything the players and backroom staff have said.
“I’d like to thank all the players for helping me in the last few weeks since I made my debut at Dover.
“I’d also like to thank Scott Bartlett who has done a lot for me over the last two years. He has picked me up from as low as possible and brought me back up to this. He’s a top bloke and the best coach I have ever had.”
Stokes will now line up as part of the Forest Green squad in the National League next season, following in the footsteps of the likes of Louis McGrory and Aden Baldwin.