Rise of Jadon Sancho from South London street football to £73m transfer to Man Utd, via Watford, Man City and Dortmund – The Sun
JADON SANCHO is FINALLY a Manchester United player, after over a year of negotiations between the Red Devils and Borussia Dortmund.
The outlay of £73million plus add-ons was enough to convince the Bundesliga giants to part with their prized asset.
But back in 2012, well before he became one of Europe’s most exciting prospects at Borussia Dortmund and forced his way into the England's Euro 2020 squad, Sancho was learning the game in South London.
He was born in March 2000 to Trinidadian parents, and grew up in Kennington.
Jadon told Sky Sports: "I was on an estate.
"There's a park behind that we called Blue Park, and we used to just go there and for two hours just play mini games, everyone used to get so into it.
"I used to have all the tricks, nutmeg people, and I was doing it like the older boys.
"They played properly so they didn't want to hurt us younger boys. But they thought I was ready to play with them.
"I'd call myself a street footballer, that's where I learned my tricks."
Sayce Holmes-Lewis was a community coach for Southwark Council, who trained Sancho in a team of South London’s most talented kids and grew close with the then 12-year-old and his father, Sean.
The Sanchos would go and watch Holmes-Lewis play for Lewisham Borough, and he recalled: “Jadon had this little afro, was always smiling."There was always banter between me and him.
“I’d say, ‘I bet you can’t do this skill’. I’d show him and by the end of the session he’d got it.
"It was embarrassing for me because I was almost 30 at the time, had worked on these skills all summer and it took him an hour to master!
“Jadon was always trying to prove how good he was but in a humble way.”
READY FOR ENGLAND
Sancho, 21, can now be called upon by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate — and vindicated his decision to leave Manchester City in 2017.
Those who witnessed Sancho on his journey from confident kid from Kennington to one of the Bundesliga’s best, describe him as an affable boy with bags of ability.
Yet there is one trait that stands out — an unyielding determination to succeed.
Louis Lancaster, who coached Sancho in Watford’s academy, said: “There’s a great phrase in football that goes, ‘Prepare the player for the pathway’ because it doesn’t change.
"Jadon scrapped that rule. For him, it was preparing the pathway for the player.
“He’s moved from South to North with one of the world’s greatest managers and players and he’s got a choice either stay in the Man City Under-23s and not develop or go to another country.
“How many players would have the courage to do that?”
Courage is a recurring theme in Sancho’s upbringing — courage in ability, in failure, in resisting temptation and in taking the less trodden path.
That path began at Watford’s development centre in Battersea, where Holmes-Lewis first came across the young forward in 2007 while visiting a friend who trained the juniors.
Holmes-Lewis said: “I thought he was a bit spicy in his style. He was skilful when I first saw him at Watford.
“But he’d developed before we joined up at Southwark, was more dynamic and a standout player. He was doing things way ahead of his age.”
THE NELSON EFFECT
Sancho played for Southwark district alongside Ian Carlo Poveda, now at Leeds United, and Reiss Nelson, the Arsenal forward who shone on loan at Bundesliga side Hoffenheim in the 2018-19 season.
Holmes-Lewis said: “They were great kids, never on the streets hanging around with the wrong crowd.
"They had a gift they worked really hard at and they had to focus to progress. And I just loved the banter between Jadon and Reiss.”
While Sancho has progressed quicker, it was Nelson who was the more talented.
And Holmes-Lewis said: “When Jadon was ten, the pressure seemed to get to him and that was something Reiss didn’t struggle with.
“Jadon would get very frustrated very quickly. What we tried to do was instil belief in him that he needs to keep trying.
“Now, Jadon is probably the more assertive and confident and Reiss is behind.”
Sancho’s love for showboating was evident early on as he flicked through YouTube videos of Ronaldinho rather than focus on school work at Watford.
He was obsessed with football. And Paul Williams, a coach with England U-16s, recalled a time when they were waiting for a flight to Florida ahead of the Nike International Tournament — which they won and Sancho ended up as top scorer.
He said “You think you can have a conversation with the lads about other stuff but then Jadon just wanted to talk about football.
“On this occasion, though, I do remember that Jadon had just learned how to do the dab and was teaching all the players and the coaches.
“We were all sitting in the airport smiling and laughing. That moment captures Jadon perfectly.”
One week in 2015 saw that smile disappear. City had made their approach and Sancho had a decision to make.
Hornets coach Lancaster said: “He wasn’t himself. He was looking stressed.
“I gave him my spiel and his dad will have, too. But that was it — one day he was gone. This is where his dad has been brilliant, so influential. Although Jadon has done a lot himself, deep down he’ll be grateful for his dad’.”
FATHER IS KEY
Like most talented teens, supportive parents are essential and Sancho’s father is widely described as the man who kept his son focused.
Holmes-Lewis said: “Sean has dedicated himself to Jadon and his development — everything is centred around Jadon.
“The fact they’ve made it out of the concrete jungle and stayed on track is a credit to them and their parents.
“This is somewhere where it’s tough. There’s so many distractions with crime, women and being involved in trying to make money. It’s so easy to stray from the track.”
After City’s renowned scout Joe Shields recommended Sancho to the club, he rose to the next level, playing alongside Phil Foden and Taylor Richards.
Sancho made the most of City’s state-of-the-art facilities — from the strength and conditioning coaches to the sports psychologist.
And that may have been what helped him handle the £8m transfer fee Dortmund stumped up, despite Sancho never having played a single first-team game for City.
Williams believes Sancho’s potential has no limits.
He said: “The fact that he has that inner belief in himself, in wanting to be the best means he can achieve whatever he wants."
Sancho will be following in the footsteps of United's glorious wingers of the past – from Best to Giggs and most recently Ronaldo.
Expectation will be high because of his transfer fee, but given his self-confidence it won't be a problem for the driven kid who went from a council estate to Watford, Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, and will now grace Old Trafford.
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