New chapter at Stoke City starts for 'fantastic human being' ready to gatecrash first team

Sol Sidibe signs his first professional contract at Stoke City.
-Credit: (Image: Phil Greig)

Sol Sidibe is a ‘fantastic human being’ who is a credit to his family and the Stoke City academy as well as one of the best young footballers in the country – as he starts his new journey as a professional footballer.

Sidibe, who only turned 17 in February, had a taste of first team football last season and is now getting a chance to stake his claim to be a genuine member of Steven Schumacher’s senior squad week in, week out. The England youth midfielder is training with the first team and will be part of the group at Chester for the first friendly of pre-season at Chester this evening (7.45pm) having just penned a three-year contract.

It is the next step in a long journey for a player who has been on the books since he was eight and whose dad, Mama, was a hero at Stoke, winning promotion to the Premier League and helping the club stay there.

READ MORE: Leeds set away ticket price for Stoke City as Coventry blamed for rise

READ MORE: Stoke old boy Steven Nzonzi makes surprise decision

Academy director Gareth Owen said: “It’s nothing short of what he deserves. He’s a fantastic human being first and foremost who is well mannered, wants to do the best he can, constantly striving to do better both in the classroom with his education and on the pitch. The contract is everything he deserves.

“The next stage for him is to make sure he is getting some first team action and he does that by performing in training and certainly having a good pre-season and taking the opportunities when they come.

“It’s testament to the academy and also more so testament to his family. We obviously have many dealing with Mama on a daily basis.

“He is desperate to do well and that’s the big thing you’ll see from all players who come through the system; Nathan (Lowe), Emre (Tezgel), Tommy (Simkin), Sol, Jaden (Dixon)… They are all desperate to be better and I think that’s the hunger inside them.

“Now we’ve got a good nucleus knocking on the door of the first team and hopefully Sol is the one who bangs it down and gets the action he deserves.”

There are high hopes for that group of young players that Owen namechecked, who have all been called up by England over the last few months.

Owen said: “It’s testament to all the staff’s hard work and everyone’s patience. You have to wait for them to go come through the system. We’re not going out with a blank cheque and saying let’s get that player from there and that player from there. It’s constant challenge and success and support from under-nine, 10, 11 and all the way through.

“You’re seeing now a group that is knocking on the door of the first team and a couple of players who have moved on in Matty (Baker) and David (Okagbue) going to League Two. We still consider that a success because to become a professional footballer is so difficult. Everyone knows the stats that are out there. There are only 23 first team spots available at 92 clubs and that’s why it’s called elite level football.

“But we’ve got a group here who we support and challenge and we’ve got high hopes for. They’ve got to keep learning, they’re not there yet and they know that. They’ve got a hunger inside them to be a starting regular for the first team and it’s a long time of work from a number of different departments and staff to get to this position.”

Can Sidibe make his breakthrough this season? Click HERE to have your say