Town set to take prolific pony-tailed non-league striker with ‘special feet’ on trial

Stratford Town striker Ben Stephens will be on trial at Ipswich Town next week. Photo: Stratford Tow

Stratford Town striker Ben Stephens will be on trial at Ipswich Town next week. Photo: Stratford Town FC - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town will take prolific non-league striker Ben Stephens on trial next week amid growing reports they are ready to cash in on David McGoldrick before the end of the January transfer window.

Championship quartet Cardiff, Birmingham, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday are said to be weighing up and offer for McGoldrick, with Town believed to be prepared to accept £500k for a player who is now in the final few months of his contract.

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Pony-tailed set-piece specialist Stephens, who recently turned 20, was released by Leicester City.

He has already scored 17 goals for mid-table Southern League Premier Division (Step Three) side Stratford Town this season after being converted from a central midfielder to a striker.

He starts a trial at League Two side Coventry City today and will then travel to Suffolk for trials next week.

The youngster is not contracted to Stratford so is available as a free agent and, because of that, could be signed outside the transfer window.

Stratford boss Carl Adams told the Coventry Telegraph: “I really believe Coventry would be the ideal place for him because, one, he wouldn’t have to leave home and, two, I think they are very much a club that give youngsters a chance.

“Technically he is very, very gifted and I think he has a great chance of moving on, whether it’s with Coventry or Ipswich, I am sure someone will come in and take him.

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“He’s one that a lot of people have missed and someone who is going to go on to good things.

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“At our level, and I can only judge him at our level, he’s a special player and he’s creating a big name for himself at the moment. And with Coventry just on his doorstep I think it’s wise for them to have a look at him.”

Describing Stephens attributes, Adams explained added: “I decided to move him up front to play off one of our big lads and he’s taken to it like a duck to water, he really has.

“His feet are unbelievable, honestly. His first touch and awareness of bringing other players into the game is really good.

“He has a great footballing brain but he has got everything. He’s not overly rapid or fast but he isn’t slow by any means. He’s more of a ball player. He sees a picture and he’s become lethal in front of goal.

“One of his other big assets is that he just wants to learn. He wants to train every day, he’s the first one at training and last one to leave.

“He’s a quiet lad but the one thing I like about him is he is now becoming very selfish. He is very driven and I think he sees this as a really big opportunity for himself.”

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He continued: “He’s just turned 20 but he’s really got a nasty streak to him now, which he didn’t have last year.

“He was getting a little bit beat up in midfield last year and now he has gone up top and is learning how to use his body and strength more, and throwing the odd elbow back when he’s getting them off the centre-halves.

“The one thing about him is he has long hair which he ties in a pony tail, so he looks a bit of a ponce, and when the centre-halves see him with his pony tail I think they try to kick him. But he’s certainly manning up and standing his ground now.

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“He’s good with both feet, the best I have seen at our level, very special feet! He scores with both on a regular basis and with his head as well.

“The one thing that’s surprising about him is he isn’t the biggest lad in the world, he’s only about 5’9, but he wins loads and loads of headers because he has got a really good leap on him.

“He has scored five or six free kicks from 20-25-yards so he’s a bit of a dead ball specialist as well. I feel like I am describing Messi to you, but he really is a special player!”