COLE Stockton has revealed how two spells on loan with Vauxhall Motors helped him make the transition to playing regular first-team football with Tranmere Rovers this season.

The 18-year-old, who made his 23rd appearance of the campaign for Rovers in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient, is now an established member of Ronnie Moore’s table-topping squad in League One.

He signed a new two-and-a-half year contract earlier this month and is expected to spearhead the Tranmere attack in this Friday’s televised Sky Sports clash against Shrewsbury Town (7.45pm) at Prenton Park.

Stockton, of Rainhill, had two loan spells with Vauxhall last season, scoring four goals in eight appearances.

He feels his time at Rivacre Park helped his development.

“Going to Vauxhall Motors last season really toughened me up,” he said. “I will always remember my first game for them.

“I went up for a challenge and got elbowed in the mouth. I thought to myself ‘I’ve started in the real game now’.

“It was a good experience. It made me more resilient as a player.

“I got used to playing with men instead of lads my own age in the youth team and reserves and saw the tough side of football.”

Eighteen of Stockton’s 23 appearances for Tranmere this season have been from the subs’ bench.

He has netted four goals, including one in a televised FA Cup tie at Braintree in November.