Three Lewisham College students have signed professional football contracts at Dagenham & Redbridge.
Haydn Ankle, 18, from Brixton, is captain of the college football team and recently joined the League 2 side along with college teammates Louie Theophanous, 18 and Mohamed Diakite, 17, both from Kennington. The teenagers follow in the footsteps of former academy graduate Dominic Green, who also signed for Dagenham & Redbridge whilst at Lewisham College in 2007. Green currently plays for Peterborough United in The Championship.
Earlier this week ELL caught up with Haydn.
ELL: How did you feel when you joined Dagenham & Redbridge?
HA: I was really happy when I signed. I felt like all my hard work had paid off. The trials had gone pretty well and after three or four sessions I thought I had done enough to impress.
ELL: What was your first training session like?
HA: Hard! I wasn’t used to the fast pace of the game. But I was excited and I tried my hardest to impress the coaches and manager.
ELL: How much has the football academy at Lewisham College helped in your development?
HA: The academy is run well and I think it should happen at more colleges. Everyone encourages each other. It has helped me to understand the game better. Dan (Academy Head Coach) has really improved the way I play. He would get me to stay after team training to work at shooting with my left foot. I can now finish with both feet.
ELL: It’s a young boy’s dream to play professional football. What would your advice be to others aspiring to be footballers?
HA: Don’t give up and to just work hard. It’s important that they get encouragement as well. My mum always says “Each time you fall, get up and keep your head up”.
ELL: Who do you support and who is your favourite player?
HA: I’m a big Arsenal fan. I loved watching Patrick Vieira play when he was there. I also like watching Wayne Rooney. His work-rate during a match is unbelievable. Although he’s a striker and I’m a winger, I try to model myself on him.
ELL: Sports men and women are often superstitious. I know a cricketer who sleeps with his cricket bat the night before a game. Do you have any weird superstitions?
HA: [He laughs] No, no I don’t have any strange superstitions but I always make sure I get changed in the corner of the dressing room. I don’t know why but it helps me to relax before a match.
ELL: If you were not a footballer what would you like to be?
HA: I would study A-level Maths so that I could become an accountant. I’m pretty good with numbers.
ELL: This week ELL is finding out what people are planning for their loved ones on Valentines Day. Have you made any special plans?
HA: Er… I’ve not made any plans yet. [He laughs] I am going to but I am just focusing on football at the moment.
ELL: Nowadays, football is renowned for it’s WAG culture. Do you see yourself being attracted to that kind of lifestyle?
HA: No I am low-key. I like to just keep my head down and focus on the game.
ELL: What do you want to achieve in the future?
HA: I want to enjoy myself, enjoy playing football, make some money and hopefully retire with a lot of money! I am signed at Dagenham & Redbridge till the end of the season but I am confident I can earn a contract extension.