Jacob Wakeling interview: The breakneck rise of Swindon Town’s ‘little Jamie Vardy’ -Dlight News

Jacob Wakeling interview: The breakneck rise of Swindon Town's 'little Jamie Vardy'

“My journey has not been easy,” admits Jacob Wakeling.

At 21, most footballers are finding their way around the game, and the Swindon striker is no exception in that regard.

It’s just that he had already been released from an academy, dropped down the league, signed for a Premier League club, was loaned out and then released again before he signed with the Robins last summer.

Needless to say, he is more level-headed than many of the same age as a result.

The story of his promotion begins in the summer of 2020, when he was released by West Brom when he was 18 years old and was later picked up by Alvechurch, the central team of the Southern League Premier Division, who reached the second round of the Cup. FA earlier this season.

With fast pace, an eye for goal and certainly a point to prove, naturally it wasn’t long before the eyes of the teams higher up the pyramid were fixed on the teenager’s development.

“When I started playing for Alvechurch, I had no intention of moving on, it was just about playing normal football and enjoying it again,” Wakeling told sky sports.

The dizzying rise of Jacob Wakeling

  • June 2020 – Posted by West Brom
  • August 2020 – Season begins with Alvechurch out of the league
  • December 2020 – Transfers for Leicester after the trial period
  • January 2022 – Made his EFL debut during a loan at Barrow
  • June 2022 – Posted by Leicester
  • July 2022 – Sign a one-year deal at Swindon after trial period
  • August 2022 – Scores his first professional goal
  • September 2022: Sign a new deal until 2026 in Swindon

“When I started doing well and scoring goals, some National League clubs got interested and that’s when I really started wanting to move up the leagues. I had a chance to go to the National League, but I thought I could outplay myself. “. that.

“I always believed in myself, I think that’s what you have to do as a footballer, even when things don’t go well, and I was offered a trial at Leicester.”

The trial went swimmingly and before 2020 was out, Wakeling had signed a deal to keep him at King Power for just over 18 months.

It was the dream scenario. And one that the leader likely thought would never happen, particularly as, in a tweet after the move was confirmed, he thanked Alvechurch chairman Richard Thorndike for “believing in me when no one else did.”

Wakeling spent a season and a half with Leicester after being spotted playing for non-league Alvechurch.

“Leicester was a really good time,” Wakeling continues. “I have a lot of good memories and I worked with great coaches who taught me a lot and really helped me.

“It was a crazy period – in one year, I went from training in a park to training in a £100m training ground with the Leicester first team and had the chance to speak to Brendan Rodgers. I had to pinch myself sometimes.

“When I was at West Brom a lot of the managers said I was like a little Jamie Vardy. I had a similar route to him, going down the league and then back up again. I don’t think he even knew though! my name, if I’m honest! However, I liked watching him train, because I’ve always based my game on his.”

Wakeling made three appearances for the Foxes U21 team in the Papa Johns Trophy in 2020/21 and 2021/22, scoring twice, and then went on loan to Barrow in January 2022. “That didn’t work out, but don’t let that depressed me,” he says.

Seeing no first-team path for Wakeling, Leicester released him last summer and, within a month, he had signed a one-year deal at Swindon.

“I knew there was interest [from Swindon] on a loan the previous summer, but that didn’t happen”, he explains.

“There was still interest last summer and, when it was all done and sorted at Leicester, I had the opportunity to sign here, and it was a no-brainer for me. It was a great opportunity to show what I can do at this level, for a great club. of this level.

“Not many people can say they play regular League Two football at my age. I’ve played with a lot of guys who were amazing at youth level but weren’t cut out for professional level and I want to show that.” I can compete at this level, compete physically and score goals.

“I had something to prove when I signed here because there were a lot of people saying I wasn’t good enough and that pushed me and gave me extra motivation.”

Wakeling racked up four goals and three assists in his first 11 league outings and by the end of September, Swindon tied him up, realizing the potential of the talent on their hands.

He admits that signing a new contract until 2026 was another decision that took little deliberation: “I want to pay the club back for trusting me.”

He acknowledges the fact that his attacking performance has declined since he burst onto the scene, but for a youngster in his first full EFL season, seven goals and five assists are utterly paltry.

Promotion is the goal from here on for 11th-placed Swindon: “It’s what the fans deserve. This club shouldn’t be in League Two.”

But Wakeling is also using the remaining months of the season to continue his development and learn from Town head coach Jody Morris, who previously worked in the Premier League as Frank Lampard’s assistant.

“It’s another very good experience for me. You don’t really get a lot of chances to be coached by a guy like him who has played at a really high level and has coached players in the Premier League and the Championship.”

“He knows what he’s talking about, so it’s just a case of learning from him and taking into account everything he says because he’s been there and done it.”

And that means learning your trade by any means necessary.

“My preferred position is like 9, alone or in two, but I’ve played all this season: left, right and even recently had a little season as a left back too. It’s a learning experience for me, playing in different positions and adapting, because that’s what you have to do as a professional footballer.

“The coach asks me to do a job for the team and I can’t get angry because it’s a team sport and not everything depends on me. I have to try to do my best in whatever position he asks me to do.”

With a mature attitude, it seems that this young striker has a bright future in the game.

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