Teen duo prove there's life after Town

ONE of the hardest tasks for a manager is to tell a teenage player they will not be offered a contract but as football writer Derek Davis discovers, there is life after Ipswich Town as he follows the fortunes of Ollie Fenn and Floyd Croll.

Derek Davis

ONE of the hardest tasks for a manager is to tell a teenage player they will not be offered a contract but as football writer Derek Davis discovers, there is life after Ipswich Town as he follows the fortunes of Ollie Fenn and Floyd Kroll.

FOR Ollie Fenn, an Ipswich boy through and through, the moment he was told by Jim Magilton that he was being released was the darkest day in his young life.

Less than a fortnight later he was making his debut for Irish premier club Galway United in the Eirecom League.

There was no wallowing in self pity for Fenn though as hours after the blue door closed for him the gateway to the Emerald Isle opened up and he was on a plane.

Fenn said: “At first I was gutted. But then Jim told me Galway were keen so I had no time to feel sorry for myself and I flew out virtually straight away

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“I'm just about getting my head around it all now and I'm feeling fixed emotions.

“It was disappointing not getting a contract with Ipswich and having to leave all the lads behind. I knew it was coming to crunch time and I tried to prepare myself. I would have loved to have earned a contract with Ipswich but it wasn't to be.

“I have been there ten years and they have been absolutely great to me and I loved it there.”

Fenn was snapped up after impressing in a behind-doors game against Galway that were over on a week's pre-season training as part of an initiative to forge links between the two clubs.

Fenn said: “This is a new opportunity for me and I intend to make the most of it.

“The season has just started but I have been playing a fair bit so I'm up to speed and that has helped. They also have very good facilities here, among the best in Ireland I'm told and after being used to Ipswich's facilities they need to be good.”

Usually it is the Irish coming over to England but Fenn is among those reversing the trend.

He said: “I have moved along way from home and it is a different culture but they are very friendly and helpful. There is lad over from Middlesbrough who has been here a while and knows his way around and what's what so it has been good to have him around.”

The football is different but he is quickly adapting.

Fenn said: “I got 40 minutes and enjoyed it. It was more long-ball than I'm used to. On my debut against Bohemians we spent the last ten minutes chasing the game and it was going over my head a fair bit.

“Bohemians are a big team in this league and we were a bit unfortunate not to at least get a draw but for me it gave me a good idea of the level and I felt I did fine.

“There were more than 2,000 there and created a good atmosphere. It was a good step for me and after playing at Anfield in the FA Youth Cup, it was a big game for me.

“Now I hope to push on and get into the starting XI and stay in the side.”

Fenn started in the draw with Cobh and can see him growing into Irish football.

He said: “There is talk of an All-Ireland league which will make it even more interesting and raise the profile further.

“The standard of football is pretty good, far better than our reserve league anyway.”

Football remains his true love but as a precaution Fenn studied hard enough at Kesgrave High School where he got four As and four Bs in his GCE'S and completed a Sport B Tech national diploma and Certificate at Suffolk College while an academy player.

THE door is never closed unless you close it yourself.

Wise words from Floyd Croll who refuses to give up on his dream of playing first team for a professional club.

The 20-year-old has an impressive list of qualifications gained since being rejected by Ipswich and later Wigan but it is the lessons learned from the school of hard knocks that keep him determined.

It could be that this week Croll, who has been playing in the Ridgeon's league with Long Melford, will find his persistence and belief in himself has finally paid-off with Danish club Silkeborg IF considering offering him a professional contract after a successful trial.

It would have been all too easy for Croll to have given up when Ipswich Town told him they were not going to keep him on at 15.

With Shane Supple and Lewis Price ahead of him it was always going to be difficult for the Suffolk youngster from Rattlesden to get a look in and he was released at 15.

Wigan Athletic did think he had something about him and offered him a scholarship where he was a regular in the Premier Reserve League playing against the likes of Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester City and Everton.

The keeper even scored a goal against Manchester united's Tim Howard in a reserve league match when the wind caught his clearances and deceived the American keeper.

He clearly enjoys playing against Manchester United as one of his most memorable games for Town was as a 14-year-old playing in the Under 18s that faced the Red Devils at Playford Road, when he saved a penalty in a 2-1 win.

Each setback has made him even more determined to succeed.

Croll said: “It was very hard being released by Ipswich. The facilities at Ipswich are among the best in Europe and it is only after you experience other places that you appreciate that the training is also among the best in Europe too.

“When I went to Wigan I had some good times, playing against my hero Robbie Fowler was one even though he chipped me to score, and then scoring against Tim Howard was amazing.

“All 11 of us were let go and that was tough to take. It has not put me off though. Neville Southall and Peter Schmeichel were both late turning pro and I'm still only 20.

“I have had plenty of set backs but I have not given up. The door is never closed unless you close it yourself.”

Croll is so determined to play abroad that he missed out on an audition for a new series of Gladiators, in order to fly to Denmark.

Croll has showed he has gloves and is prepared to travel to find the right club.

Last season he trained with German giants Kaiserslautern and Alemenia Aachen, and attended a German VDV (their equivalent to the PFA) training camp, thought to be the only Englishman ever to have been invited.

With no contract forthcoming Croll signed for Long Melford but his main occupation is as a fully-trained fitness instructor at LA Fitness in Cambridge.

Croll, 20, has qualifications coming out of his ears and intends to add his FA coaching badge level two in May hosted by Chelsea.

He has already started down the coaching route and inspired by James Holman, goalkeeping coach at Norwich, Croll works with fellow former Town young keeper Scott Peat, coaching youngster at Kesgrave on Monday evenings - his way of giving something back as he enjoyed such tutelage as a youngster.

Croll has football in his genes with his mum Deborah the daughter of a former Liverpool player, while his uncle Geoff Nulty was at Burnley, Everton and Newcastle United.

If getting back into the professional game was not a big enough target, Croll has set his sights high. My dream is to play in Europe against Manchester United.”

And no one is closing the door on that just yet.