Rapid rise could have seen young ace tackle different sport
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.