RICHIE Wellens has tipped teen defender Tom Hamer to be a Latics star of the future after signing his first professional contract with the club.

The 18-year-old has progressed through the youth system and put pen to paper on a two-year deal on Tuesday.

He has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks after stepping in to cover for injured first-team players.

Hamer coped manfully in the 0-0 draw at Rochdale – his first league start – and set up Duckens Nazon’s first goal at Wimbledon on Saturday.

But while he was named man of the match on a difficult home debut in Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat to Southend, Wellens admitted his performance highlighted the youngster still has a lot to learn.

“It was a young lad making his home debut,” he said. “At times he got picked off because of his lack of awareness, but we will work with Tom.

“He is a player I really believe in and in the coming years I think he will become a really good player.

“In terms of Tuesday night, in patches the Southend strikers were a bit too clever for him.”

Oldham went behind in only the fifth minute to a close-range effort from former Watford striker Theo Robinson and ex-Wales international Simon Cox plundered two goals in the second half.

“Simon Cox has played in the Premier League and Theo Robinson has played in the Championship, so it was just a little bit too much for him at times.”

Despite the difficult Boundary Park debut, Hamer is looking forward to Saturday’s final home game against Doncaster.

“To sign my first professional contract is a proud moment for myself and my family. I’m now looking forward to working hard to ensure we maintain our League One status.”