Future looking bright for former Norwich and Dereham midfielder as League Two progress continues
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Luke Hannant may have taken the scenic route to find his way into the Football League but now the former Norwich City youth player is facing a big decision in 2019.
The Great Yamouth-born midfielder has established himself as a regular at League Two club Port Vale, scoring four goals in 27 games in all competitions so far this season – leading to reported interested from Championship side Bolton.
Yet with his contract expiring next summer the 25-year-old could well have the opportunity to move up the professional ladder, having stepped out of non-league successfully.
Hannant was with Norwich until the age of 14 and then continued his development at Cambridge United, playing locally for Cambridge Regional College but being released at 18 after some pre-season involvement with the U's first team.
From there he became a regular at Dereham and helped to win the Eastern Counties Premier Division title in 2013 before heading to the north-east to study sports science at Northumbria University.
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After graduating in 2016 Hannant signed for National League side Gateshead, also playing for South Shields on a dual registration before establishing himself with the Heed at the top level of non-league in 2017-18.
When manager Neil Aspin left for Port Vale in October of that campaign, the former Canaries hopeful soon found himself joining his former boss at Vale Park, signing for a 'low five-figure fee', according to the Stoke Sentinel.
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Vale are bouncing around mid-table in the fourth tier but their Norfolk-born ace, who can also play on the wing, is pleased with his progress during 2018.
'The last year has been really positive,' Hannant reflected. 'Getting my first spell in the Football League, I feel like I've had a good, solid 12 months.
'Last season was a bit of a struggle, the team was in the bottom half of the table but we got the points we needed to stay up.
'This season has been quite steady so far in terms of results with some good and bad ones, but at the halfway point of the season, I'd say it's been pretty steady.
'I feel like I've improved massively from last season, I'm trying to improve with every game, but everyone knows we're going to have off games. So it's how you react to that, working hard in training and focusing on your weaknesses, and I feel like I'm doing that at the moment.'
Valiants boss Aspin has spoken previously about Hannant's potential to play higher up the football pyramid, if he can prove his ability consistently, and has used the player he signed after a trial at Gateshead in a variety of positions.
As well as playing across midfield for Vale, Hannant has featured at left wing-back.
He continued: 'He's has been my only manager really in professional football and I feel like when I joined Gateshead, I've been able to play well under him. He's put a lot of trust in me as I have him.
'He's played me in positions that have allowed me to express myself, and coming here as well, he gave me the opportunity and I'd like to think I've taken it.
'He's played me in a few positions, I'm quite versatile and so I feel like I can do a job in many positions roles, but he has allowed me to get forward and that's paid off because I've got a few goals this season.'
Vale continue their campaign with a trip to mid-table rivals Oldham today before a tough trip to leaders Lincoln on New Year's Day.
Hannant is setting his sights high for 2019 – but is also not ruling out signing fresh terms with his current club.
'Just to try and kick on, whether that be with Port Vale or whether I want to try and express myself at a higher level,' Hannant concluded, speaking to Vale's official website.
'If you don't want to play at a higher level then you probably don't want to test yourself. So I feel like I'm going into every game, putting 100 percent in to see what will happen between now and the end of the season.
On his contract, Hannant added: 'It's been mentioned a few times but I'm happy here at Port Vale and I'm playing well under the gaffer,' he said.
'The fans have been really good to me and I'm settled in the area too, so if something came up about a contract in the next few months, I'd be happy to speak about it.'
• You can see Hannant in action earlier this month in the video above, scoring the final goal as Vale won 4-0 at home against the under-21s of local rivals Stoke City in the Checkatrade Trophy second round – when almost 4,000 Stoke fans swelled the attendance to just short of 8,000 and 11 arrests were made as trouble broke out.