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Devon Under-16s player Josh has been on quite the journey with Saints Southwest. Here is his story, as described by his mum…

“Josh started playing football at two years old at a local Soccer Tots group. From this he joined Exeter City Community football programme for four to six-year-olds on a Saturday morning. At the age of six, Josh joined his first grassroots team, the U7s at St Martins, playing a year up. His first trophy was Manager’s Player of the Season.

“Josh enjoyed playing football at school and after attending the school football club, run by Arsenal Soccer School, Josh was invited by the coach, Adam Hayman, to attend the Development Centre up at Exeter University. This training quickly led to Josh being invited to play for the Arsenal Soccer School JPL team.

“Josh played a year up until U11s. During this time he won Manager’s Player of the Season. Josh then joined his chronological age group with Mike Berry as the team coach. Josh attended Exeter City Performance Centre and had trials for the academy and Josh stayed with Arsenal Soccer School when they moved to Saints Southwest. Alongside playing for Saints, Josh also signed on with a local grassroots team Central, and he would play for Central if Saints had a free Saturday and for the tournament season.

“Josh was invited to play in most Representative Squad games and these he particularly enjoyed. He really valued the opportunities that these games gave him. Throughout lockdown Josh ensured that he kept his fitness levels up and relationships with his team and coach by attending the online training sessions. He also supported his younger brother, Zak, during lockdown and attended his online training sessions with Mini Saints (Cranbrook group).

“On his return to training after the second lockdown Josh started to experience knee pains. GPs put it down to growing pains and the Saints physio was very proactive at supporting Josh with exercises. As time went on the pain was not easing and the physio suggested an MRI to see exactly what was going on. This MRI revealed that Josh’s cartilage had detached and he required surgery. Josh was non-weight-bearing for six weeks and stayed on crutches for 11 weeks, which was both physically and mentally tough. Josh not only missed his sports but he really missed playing football with his friends and going out. For someone so active he had to adjust to attending school and then being at home while his friends were still so active.

“Once Josh was weight-bearing and able to walk for longer periods of time he got a part time job at North Barbers. This filled his time on a Saturday and really helped take his mind off of his recovery.

“Josh’s love for football and the drive to want to return to football kept him going. He stayed focused on his recovery, practicing his exercises twice a day at least, and really listened to all the advise that he was given from the professionals in order to make a full recovery. Josh was keen throughout his recovery to work on his fitness levels and would train in the gym, in addition to doing his physio exercises as he wanted to be as physically ready as he could for his return to football.

“Josh returned to training seven months after surgery and he has just had his first full game, 10 months post-surgery. He has a new position on the team. Throughout this whole experience Saints have supported Josh 100 per cent. They have never lost faith in Josh and have been so encouraging and positive with his recovery.”

Mark Titchard, Devon Under-16s coach and director at Saints Southwest, added: “Josh is a true example of a Saints Southwest player – a hard-working, honest and well-mannered young person.

“After overcoming a number of injuries, Josh is nearly back to full fitness and has returned to training and matches within our Devon U16 Academy Squad.

“His mental resilience and passion for sport is infectious, and now he's in a top age group of the Youth Development Phase, he's a perfect role model to all younger players who want to develop in the right manner on and off the pitch.

“As his U16 coach, its's been a great pleasure to see him grow, develop and overcome some big hurdles over the past nine years.

“You are a huge credit to you family and peers – well done Josh from the whole Saints Southwest TEAM.”

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Andrew Robert
Andrew Robert
05 dic 2022

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