MICHAEL Staley will become the fourth-youngest player in York City's history if he his handed his Football League debut at Swansea on Saturday.

Highly-rated defender Staley is set to be named as a substitute at Vetch Field for a second successive game and, at 16 years and 323 days, he would follow Reg Stockill (15 years and 281 days), Lee Grant (16 years and 116 days) and Mick Astbury (16 years and 298 days) into the York City record books if he gets a taste of the action.

Winger Stockill only went on to make one more League appearance for City before moving to Scarborough, where he was sold on to Arsenal.

Grant made his Minstermen debut against Bristol Rovers two years ago as a substitute under Terry Dolan but turned down the opportunity of a scholarship at Bootham Crescent to sign for Aston Villa, for whom he played in this year's FA Youth Cup final.

Goalkeeper Astbury made his debut in 1980 and went on to play in the famous FA Cup win over Arsenal five years later.

City player-boss Chris Brass could now be tempted to make Staley City's fourth 16-and-under player by giving him a run-out in Wales as he weighs up his first-team credentials ahead of next season.

Brass said: "Michael has been a regular in the reserves at 16 which is a bizarre situation in itself but he's proved he's ready for it and can handle it. He will be involved again at Swansea and deserves his chance.

"If he continues to progress at the rate of knots he has done this season he will certainly be knocking on the door next season which will be some accolade for someone of his age.

"His biggest attribute is his reading of the game, which is a great advantage as a defender because it gives you that yard start.

"Nothing seems to faze him and he seems to have that ability of creating that extra bit of time for himself that good players are able to do.

"He's not the finished article and has to keep himself fully focussed, but knowing him, I think he will take everything in his stride.

"It's a case of picking and choosing when he's ready to take the next step but he's not a million miles away which speaks volumes about somebody of his age."

Barnsley-born Staley was on his home-town's books but was not offered a scholarship and Brass added: "They might have missed the boat."

Staley's fellow teenagers Lev Yalcin, Bryan Stewart, Graeme Law and Adam Arthur are all set to keep their starting places at Swansea.

Richard Hope is expected to replace Leigh Wood at centre-back after completing a two-match ban while Liam George and Andy Bell are both expected to recover from minor knocks to make the trip.

Updated: 10:54 Friday, May 07, 2004