Sobers in dream land

IPSWICH TOWN v BRENTFORD, Carling Cup, first round, Portman Road, tonight, 7.45pmJEROME Sobers can barely believe his rise from non-league obscurity to the Ipswich Town first-team squad has happened so quickly.

IPSWICH TOWN v BRENTFORD, Carling Cup, first round, Portman Road, tonight, 7.45pm

JEROME Sobers can barely believe his rise from non-league obscurity to the Ipswich Town first-team squad has happened so quickly.

The 18-year-old central defender will be on the bench for the Blues tonight for their Carling Cup, first-round clash with Brentford – just six months after playing for Ford United's youth team.

The young Blue missed first-team training yesterday to be at a friend's funeral but last night told the EADT: "It is incredible. I never expected to be in the first-team squad for some time yet. I know it is the League Cup, and I'm some way off being a regular, but it is still quite amazing."

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Spotted by former Town Academy coach Ian Smith, Sobers joined the Blues last February along with Ford team-mate Ben Patten and the duo were instantly dubbed Ben and Jerry after the famous ice cream company.

The then unemployed painter and decorator impressed in a Town reserves win against Arsenal at Barnet's Underhill Ground and made his mark with a crunching tackle on Gunners midfielder Ryan Smith.

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The 6ft 4in central defender has experienced cup football before with Ford, who are now called Redbridge FC and are in the Nationwide Conference (South), when he played in the FA Cup. He was in the side that beat Cambridge City and in the squad that took Port Vale of Division Two to a replay.

Royle admitted Sobers was still very much a raw talent but is convinced he can go a long way.

He said: "Jerome is making big strides. He is possibly our quickest player and is growing into a fair old size. It is an early taste for him. Whether or not he is ready, I'm not sure but he may get his chance, depending on how things are going."

A 100-metre sprinter at school, Sobers flirted with the idea of athletics but never gained even county recognition, unlike at football where he played for Essex, and football was always his first love.

He said: "I ran at school meetings but that was it, the rest of the time I was playing football. All I ever wanted to do was be a professional footballer so this really is like a dream come true.

"There is still a long way to go. I'm still learning and my main aim this season is to play regularly in the reserves. Anything else other than that is a bonus at this stage."

Like Patten, Sobers has moved into digs in the Ipswich area, a far cry from the streets of East London. Sobers said: "I was really worried that I would miss London, and I have, but I'm getting used to it here now.

"It is like the brush-lands compared to where I come from but it is an ideal place to play and learn football.

"There are no distractions and, where I live, there is virtually no public transport so you can't go out anyway.

"In a way that is good, my landlady is great and I can concentrate on being a professional footballer. I go home to London when I can to see my family but I don't see them too much."

Going from the occasional day's hard graft as a decorator and playing part-time for the non-leaguers, to full-time training with a professional club took some adjusting for the teenager.

He admitted: "It was terrible at first. I was tired all the time and struggled a bit but I have got used to it now and the body has adjusted.

"Being a professional is not quite how I thought it would be. I thought it would take me a lot longer to progress and certainly didn't think I would be in the first-team squad so quickly."

Sobers and Patten signed for a nominal fee, part of which was a pre-season friendly against Redbridge FC at their Oakside Ground in which the non-leaguers beat a young Town side, including Ben and Jerry, 1-0.

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