ENGLAND junior Matthew Ramshaw returned to Airedale Hockey Club for their last training session before Christmas dressed as an elf.

The Bradley teenager may have made a rapid rise from grassroots to international level but he had no qualms about donning his costume and taking part in the Keighley club's traditional fancy dress festive friendly which pitted Santas against Elves.

Yet it is far from make-believe to regard Ramshaw as a likely future Olympian with Great Britain in a sport where he is already hitting the heights.

Despite only just having turned 18, the former Ermysted's pupil has been called up for the Great Britain under-23 hockey development squad which provides preparation ground for the Olympics.

He headed out for a warm weather training camp in Lisbon earlier this week in a month that will also see him pick up a prestigious award which has previously been won by some of hockey's biggest stars.

Ramshaw has been named the 2017 Hockey Writers Club National Youth Award winner, following in the footsteps of three-time Olympian and all-time top England goal-scorer Ashley Jackson and Rio 2016 gold medal hero Maddie Hinch.

The accolade, which he will receive at a ceremony in London on January 24, is not only for the outstanding talent he has shown on the pitch but also recognises his contribution of giving back to the community.

Now on a sports scholarship at Oakham School in Rutland, Ramshaw is top scorer for Loughborough Students, who are second in the Men's Hockey League Conference North, and has also been impressing with England under-18s.

But he still has strong ties at Airedale, where he is always keen to join in when returning home and help out with coaching youngsters.

He said: "I want to keep the ties with my old club because they brought me up – they’ve coached me and been there since I started playing hockey, which was pretty much since I could walk.

"I wouldn’t be anywhere without Airedale, and places like Oakham and Loughborough have really helped me improve even more."

Ramshaw also enjoyed a spell at Ben Rhydding and is grateful for the platform they provided in helping him progress.

He said: "They helped me on to the next step of my hockey career and meant I could go to places like Oakham and Loughborough.

"They helped me to move on and just become that bit better and play at a higher level."

Ramshaw admits he is honoured to win the Hockey Writers award which puts him in stellar company.

Jackson – who has now turned to ice hockey – is considered one of the finest players in the world while goalkeeper Hinch achieved national fame when she saved all four penalties to claim a historic Olympic gold for Great Britain's ladies in Rio.

Ramshaw said: "It's quite humbling and I also feel quite proud when you look at where they've got to.

"Having someone who has won this award and then also won an Olympic gold medal gives me a real incentive."

As the youngest player called up for the development squad, hopes of making the squad for Tokyo in 2020 remain an outside shot but he is sure to be in the selectors' long-term thinking when the Games are held in Paris in 2024.

Ramshaw said: "Being the youngest in the squad is quite tough but a good challenge and I have a few more years there so hopefully I can keep on improving.

"Hopefully I can go on to play with the senior squad and hopefully to some Olympics."

The new year promises to be an exciting one for the south Craven youngster at elite level – both for club and country.

But he is sure to keep in close contact with his roots at Airedale, as his participation in the Elves versus Santas match testifies.

He said: "It was good fun just to see everyone again and keep playing hockey over Christmas."

For the record, Ramshaw helped the Elves to victory. Airedale coach Richard Stewart said: "When he plays he usually holds back a bit and plays within himself. But that doesn’t apply to Georgia, his little sister. If she gets the ball he wants to take it off her!"