Cambridge United are pleased to confirm that Academy product Joe Neal has penned a two and half year professional contract, committing his future to the Abbey Stadium until 2021.

The 18-year old striker has been with the U’s since joining 11 seasons ago and has progressed through the Academy age groups across the course of the last decade. Neal, raised locally in Newmarket, was spotted as a six-year old by now Academy Manager Tom Pell.

In recent years, he played up an age group featuring for the youth team as an under 16 during their run to the FA Youth Cup fourth round in 2017, and has since led the line with his strong ability in the air and hold up play for the U18s as well as captaining the side.

With a range of goals in his armoury including his ability as a free kick specialist, Neal has regularly been nominated for the LFE goal of the month award over the last two seasons.

Academy Manager Tom Pell commented: “Everyone within the Cambridge United Academy are delighted to see Joe rewarded with a professional contract, and he is a true representation of what our Academy is about.

“He works extremely hard, gives his all for the team as captain and has excellent qualities to his game. Meanwhile, he has also represented the Academy on visits to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, achieved triple distinctions in his academic studies and was named in the LFE 11 for his high quality performance both on and off the pitch.

“His excellent attitude can be summed up by Royston Town’s eagerness to re-sign him on loan following his goals and good quality displays whilst on a work experience with them recently.

“If he continues to work hard at his development, we have great confidence he can become a real asset for Cambridge United Football Club.”

Joe becomes the second scholar to put pen to paper on a professional deal this season, after Ben Worman’s signing back in September last year.

Cambridge United Head of Football, Ben Strang added: “The timing and duration of this contract serves as recognition of Joe’s development as a player and person throughout his time with the club.

“He deserves this opportunity, though he is fully aware of the challenges which any young player faces when transitioning in to a professional environment.”

Having featured for Royston Town over the last four weeks on a work experience, Neal will now continue to gather further minutes at a senior level for the Crows with the youngster returning to Garden Walk on a one month loan deal.