U18 RYC Final: Players Interview

This Thursday, The Hawks’ Under 18 side will take to the field in their second cup final in the space of 2 weeks in the Ryman Youth Cup Final against Tonbridge Angels at Whyteleafe FC, in the hope of winning a historic treble. Ahead of this, we’ve caught up with 4 members of the team; Billy Barker, Robbie Keith, Anesu Sisimayi and this seasons top-scorer George Coltherd-Walls and asked them the same questions as our previous interviews, getting a variety of answers in the process. Here’s how it went –

Q – How did you end up joining the team?

Billy Barker (BB) – At the back-end of the 2013-14 season, I had a few school games and a player who was currently playing for Mark Seltzer’s (former U18 Assistant Manager) team at the time had watched me play. That’s when they came up to me and asked if I was interested coming to the trials for the upcoming season, after a few sessions with the team I signed.

Robbie Keith (RK) – When I played at U16 level, I decided to trial for Whitehawk but due to my confidence being low I felt I would not make it in the current team. So, I went to Eastbourne Town. I feel I developed and matured as a player and decided to switch back to Whitehawk this season. I had already witnessed the top-quality coaching and players like Jordan and George also encouraged me to make the move. I Haven’t had a single regret since.

Anesu Sisimayi (AS) – I had just been released from the Brighton youth team and Mark Seltzer was a Brighton scout at the time as well as assistant of Whitehawk U18s. He encouraged me to come to a game, so I gave it a chance and haven’t looked back since.

George Coltherd-Walls (GCW) –  I ended up at the club when a friend of mine said to me about trialling for the club back in year 11. I went to the trial and never looked back.

Q – What were your first memories after joining?

BB – I have a few great memories from my first season with the Hawks, but my favourite has to be the first ever 3 points that we had won in a 2-1 victory against Three Bridges. This one stands out to me the most because of the famous free kick I scored from the halfway line to win the game. However, sadly I didn’t mean it.

RK – For me, it would be the pre-season training, Jude and Shooman definitely put us through our paces and physically prepared us for the season, but when you’re put through that type of pain as a team, you find strong connections formed between all the players. This is partly the reason I think we’ve done so well this season.

AS – My first goal on my full debut vs Eastbourne Borough, that was one of my favourite moments as I felt it was a springboard for me to become a key player for Whitehawk as an U16 that season

GCW – The first thing I remember is in my first game for the club I scored and whilst going to celebrate a player ran into me and I dislocated and snapped my finger.

Q – To say you’ve done well this season is an understatement, what do you think the achievements can be put down to?

BB – Once Jude, Sheep (Matthew Elphick; U18 Assistant Manager) and Harry had sorted out the squad they wanted for the season and after we had a couple of preseason matches under our belt, I felt that we had a very strong team to compete within the competition we were in. But it would’ve been naive from myself or the squad to think that the success we have had would just been even to us and that hasn’t been the case because we’ve had to dug deep throughout the season to get into position we’re in today.

RK – I didn’t have a doubt we would do great things. From the very first session, the boys and management set standards for ourselves. It was clear all players had excellent ability, but without the management received from all the coaches we wouldn’t have achieved what we have so far. I knew we would challenge for titles, but to do the double – and possibly the quadruple – well, we’re outdoing all expectations set and surprising ourselves each game.

AS – I genuinely did believe at that at the start of the season we had a really good chance of winning the league and having a decent cup run because of the amount of quality we had in every position and depth but to get ourselves in the position we are now has come from hard work and concentration but mostly from Jude and the coaches Harry and Sheep as they have had to adapt ways of playing against different teams to give us the best chance of winning and it’s led us to having this great season so far.

GCW – Honestly with the squad that we had at the start of the season I knew we would be pushing for the title and we would go a long way in the cups but I didn’t think we would’ve achieved what we have done considering half of the team are all brand-new players.

Q – What is it like to play under Jude and his coaching team?

BB – The management within this team is excellent! Since day one of me being in the team, Jude and Harry have both believed in the squad they have had, whether that be the first season I experienced where the season didn’t go so well for us or winning the league and County Cup. Therefore, it just shows how positive these guys are no matter what situation they are in and I really think this reflects well onto the bunch of lads in the dressing room.

RK – I’ve been lucky enough to be coached by some top managers, but for me personally, not a single coach has taught me as much as the boys this season. In a sense of maturing and understanding the game, they are second to none. They all have an incredible understanding of the game and have definitely prepared us for men’s football. They get us to play football the way it should be played, but also have taught us that sometimes you need to do whatever you can to win games. They can sometimes crack a joke as well, if they feel like it. Every single player in the team looks forward to coming to football, the way it should be.

GCW – Playing under Jude and the rest of the coaching staff has been an absolute pleasure these past 3 years, all the players have not got any pressure on them. We go out to enjoy our football and play our own game and that’s where the success has come from being able to play with a smile on our face and just enjoy our football on and off the pitch.

Q – Obviously the season isn’t over and you could end up winning a quadruple, which may never be matched again, what is your personal best moment of the season?

BB – Looking back it would be winning the County Cup. The few days of preparation we had, the team going out for a meal and just the whole build-up of the match was fantastic. To win it was just the icing on top of the cake. It was also great to see Tom (Media Officer) getting drench by non-alcoholic beverages after the game, which is a memory I won’t be forgetting shorty.

RK – It’s between winning the league and winning the county cup. Probably the county cup simply because we actually received the trophy and played in front of a large crowd, but we all know the job is nowhere near done.

AS – I’ve had a lot of good moments this season, especially on a personal level. The win against Pagham is up there and also the second half performance against three bridges from myself and the team and obviously lifting the county cup but my personal favourite was when I scored in the last kick of the game against Worthing to salvage a point in a match where we really needed to not drop points and because it was a quality strike too 😏.

GCW – My highlight of the season would have to be the first game back after the ‘winter break’ we had. A lot had happened to me off the pitch over that time and for Jude and the rest of the squad to acknowledge that by wear black arm bands out of respect really did mean everything to me.

Q – Since this is your last season in U18 football, what are your plans after this season?

BB –  If I’m being honest I have no idea. I’ll probably just have to see out the season and hopeful a decent club will ask me to play for them or I’ll just have to go around myself looking for one. I’m not 100% sure what level I’ll be able to play at if I’m looking for 1st team football.

RK – After previously training with the first team I’d like to try and make it in the team next season. I know how difficult it would be but it’s a great club with unbelievable fans. If things don’t work out, I would simply like to play football at as a high a level as possible.

GCW – I’ve signed a contract to go over to America for 4 years on a scholarship in St. Louis. I am still going to see if I get any offers at the end of the season from teams and then weigh up all my options and see what would be best for me.

Q – Who is your player of the season and why?

BB – Luke Emberson – Every game you’ll know you won’t get anything less than an 8/10 performance and is a good example to the younger lads. However, he does love a moan.

RK – To be honest, any player could’ve won it. But personally, it would have to be the captain, Luke (Emberson). For a person to produce such a high-quality performance week in week out is ridiculous.

AS – Jordan Pryor. I believe he’s the most improved player in the team and he’s got far with a lot of hard work.

GCW – My player of the season is Robbie Keith. He’s been consistently good all good season and has a great attitude on and off the pitch.