Rapid rise could have seen young ace tackle dif­fer­ent sport

South Wales Evening Post - - SWANS - AN­DREW GWILYM @awg­wilym • 01792 545558 an­[email protected]­di­awales.co.uk

JOR­DAN Gar­rick has con­tin­ued to make his mark for Swansea City’s academy this sea­son but the for­ward’s sport­ing as­pi­ra­tions could eas­ily have re­volved around scor­ing tries rather than goals.

Gar­rick, 20, was on the score­sheet again on Wed­nes­day night as he cap­i­talised on some lovely build-up play in­volv­ing Ge­orge By­ers and Yan Dhanda to calmly give Swansea’s un­der-21s the lead against Bris­tol Rovers.

Un­for­tu­nately it was not enough to help Cameron Toh­sack and Gary Richards’ side reach the last 16 of the Check­a­trade Tro­phy as a Tony Craig equaliser and a late solo strike from Alex Jaku­biak sent The Gas through 2-1. It was a big dis­ap­point­ment for the age-grade side, who have seen a num­ber of play­ers pro­moted to the first-team set-up un­der Gra­ham Pot­ter this sea­son.

But Gar­rick showed glimpses of his abil­ity, play­ing up front rather than in his more fa­mil­iar wide-right role, with his speed and move­ment caus­ing headaches for the Rovers’ de­fence, in­clud­ing dur­ing one pas­sage where he su­perbly set up Joel Asoro.

The Ja­maica-born player has won plenty of plau­dits for the way he has fought back from the in­jury prob­lems that cur­tailed his 2017-18 cam­paign, and he has three goals to his name so far this term.

He joined the Swans from Os­sett Al­bion of the North­ern Pre­mier Di­vi­sion One in the sum­mer of 2015 hav­ing made the de­ci­sion to stick with foot­ball, even though he was at­tract­ing in­ter­est from rugby league clubs.

In fact, he trained with for­mer Super League and Chal­lenge Cup win­ners the Brad­ford Bulls such was the prom­ise he showed as a winger and a full-back.

“Yeah, I had al­ways played foot­ball and I came to rugby league quite late. I think I was around 16 when I started play­ing but I en­joyed it and ob­vi­ously be­ing from West York­shire it’s a big sport up there,” says Gar­rick.

“I played a bit at school and then a friend of mine took me to a club called Dud­ley Hill, and their coach had links with Brad­ford Bulls and that is how I started to train with them.

“I had a bit of speed and I played as a winger or a full-back and it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence to be in a pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ment like that. They were look­ing into sign­ing me and I was very fo­cused on rugby league at that time so things could have been very dif­fer­ent for me. It re­ally helped me phys­i­cally, it built up my phys­i­cal­ity a lot but it’s too rough for me, to be hon­est! I think I’m def­i­nitely bet­ter off stick­ing to foot­ball.

“My coaches at the foot­ball club I played for on a Sun­day urged me to keep play­ing foot­ball and not to just pick one sport over the other, and it

proved to be very good ad­vice be­cause I ended up mov­ing to Swansea be­fore the rugby side of things re­ally kicked off for me.

“But I still keep an eye on it if it’s on the TV. I’ve al­ways en­joyed fast, flair play­ers in ei­ther sport. I al­ways thought Zak Har­daker (the for­mer Leeds and Castle­ford full-back, now at Wi­gan) was a re­ally ex­cit­ing player to watch.

“In foot­ball it was play­ers like Ryan Giggs and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, play­ers who ex­cite you with what they can do.”

If that was one twist of fate that would lead to Gar­rick even­tu­ally mak­ing the move to SA1, then an­other would fol­low in very short or­der with the round ball rather than an oval one.

The for­ward man­aged to catch the eye of a num­ber of scouts dur­ing a key game for Os­sett Al­bion, and he sud­denly found him­self with a num­ber of clubs chas­ing his sig­na­ture, but Swansea were al­ways the pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion.

“I was play­ing foot­ball at col­lege and my coach there coached a semipro team in Os­sett Al­bion, so I went to play for them and we faced Grimsby Town in an FA Youth Cup tie.

“We won 3-2 and I scored two of our goals, and I was lucky that there were a num­ber of scouts for a lot of dif­fer­ent clubs there and it just felt like Swansea was the right fit for me, and here I am three-and-a-half years later and I am still here.

“It was crazy, it blew my mind re­ally as I had never been with a pro­fes­sional club. I was just play­ing un­der19 foot­ball and I was sud­denly in a Pre­mier League academy.

“It was a big step up for me, it’s taken me a long time to ad­just but I feel I have im­proved and I am get­ting bet­ter.

“I take it day-by-day. I still have to im­prove and work hard ev­ery day and make the most of any chance I get.”

Af­ter their Check­a­trade Tro­phy dis­ap­point­ment, the young Swans must re­group quickly with games against Black­burn, Hertha Ber­lin and Liver­pool ar­riv­ing in short or­der.

And Gar­rick hopes the painful Lib­erty les­son of see­ing some loose play to al­low Jaku­biak to run more than40 yards to net the win­ner, will be put to good use.

“I’m al­ways happy to help the team out with a goal but it does not re­ally count for much if we lose,” he said.

“This was not so much a de­feat as a les­son learned be­cause it was our mis­takes that cost us, so we have to learn to­gether and take that for­ward.

“We know there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for us, you can see we have a first­team man­ager who is re­ally in­ter­ested in the un­der-23s. I am de­lighted for the lads who have gone up, as we all are, and we want to get there our­selves.

“To do that we have to learn from ex­pe­ri­ences like this one, and make sure we keep get­ting bet­ter.”

“To lose a game that late on is al­ways dif­fi­cult to take,” added Toshack. “Once we got the goal we just needed that 10-minute spell to take the edge off things, but we con­cede a free-kick and it get s a de­flec­tion and goes in.

“It’s part of the learn­ing, we have to learn how to man­age games, stay up the pitch and avoid dan­ger­ous mo­ments, and that fi­nal goal is one we want to for­get be­cause we spoke in the week about mak­ing sure they did not have the chance to run at us.

“But we have to con­sider it was a great test for us, the av­er­age age of their side was 28, they are sea­soned pro­fes­sion­als and it has taken some­one run­ning 50 yards or so with the ball to beat us.”

Jor­dan Gar­rick cel­e­brates his goal against Bris­tol Rovers in the Check­a­trade Tro­phy as he con­tin­ues to make a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion at the Swans.

Pic­ture: Chris Fair­weather/huw Evans Agency

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