MEMBERSHIP of the goalkeeping union at Valley Parade is pretty thin on the ground right now.

With Colin Doyle out of contract and pondering his next step and Rouven Sattelmaier and Lukas Raeder both gone, it leaves George Sykes-Kenworthy as currently the oldest stopper on the club’s books.

And the youngster does not turn 19 until October.

But City feel the teenager has a promising future in front of him – progress that has already been kick-started by an intense loan spell at Stalybridge Celtic.

The month-long stint in the National League North at the end of the last campaign offered a sink-or-swim introduction to men’s football as the Manchester side crammed in 11 games in the space of just 24 days.

It gave the Bantams chance to see how Sykes-Kenworthy would cope with such a demanding workload and they hope it has given him a real kick-start going into next season.

“He’s probably ahead of the game,” said goalkeeping coach Steve Banks.

“We planned for George to step up to the (under) 23s in January time and come away from the youth team and train solely with the senior players.

“It was a progression, even though it was still the last year of his scholarship.

“But then luckily the opportunity came up at Stalybridge Celtic for the last month of the season.

“They had a load of games and it was an opportunity for George to go and play men’s football at a competitive level where the results are more important than winning with the 23s.

“It was a taste of the physicality of playing against men in front of a little crowd and the pressure of being in a league where you are fighting relegation.

“The plan was to do that with him for next season, which we still will be doing, so we’re probably two or three months ahead of where we wanted to be.

“We know what standard he can play at and he’s performed at that level.”

It was a season to remember for Sykes-Kenworthy, who signed his first pro deal in March when he committed to the club for the next two years.

He was on the bench for the FA Cup loss at Yeovil and spent some time at the National Football Centre at St George’s Park for a Football Association training camp.

Named the youth team player of the year, he also captained the side – a ploy suggested by Banks to bring the teenager out of himself a bit more.

A City player since joining the academy at under-eight level, it was felt Sykes-Kenworthy needed to make more of a noise for himself.

Banks said: “He was very quiet so I wanted to bring him out of his shell a little bit.

“I discussed a few things with the youth team coaches and asked if he could be captain for the second year and also head scholar. That gave him a bit of responsibility having to demand things off the other lads.

“George took it on board and the difference was huge. He spoke out more and was a lot more confident.

“You want to see your goalkeeper shouting and bawling at people and telling them what to do.

“That was the idea behind it and I think it’s worked. He is now progressing and growing.”

The loan stint accelerated that education and City will look to send him out again until January. Sykes-Kenworthy is still a work in motion but the club see potential there.

Banks added: “George is definitely what you would now call a new-age goalkeeper. It’s very different from when I played.

“Now it’s all about can you play with your feet because touches with your foot compared to your hand is five to one.

“You have to be very confident with the ball at your feet and George is. He’s one of the best I’ve seen and is very calm.

“He’s also a bit of a ‘sweeper keeper’ and plays a very high line. He reads the ball over the top very well.

“We have to continue to work on his goalkeeping. It sounds a bit daft but his strongest point is playing out from the back, his control with the ball and distribution.

“We need to then get his goalkeeping up to the same level as well as his physicality.

“But going into a dressing room where he probably felt very uncomfortable to start with and having to play the demands of men’s football has shot him up more than we anticipated. I’m looking forward to George coming back.

“He knows he can kick on again.”