VO: How did it feel making your debut at just 17 for Oldham? Can you remember much about how you felt, the atmosphere and your performance?
JS: Making my debut for Oldham was a surreal experience. I’d mentally prepared for it for so long. However, the reality was totally different than I could have imagined. Playing with players like George Edmundson (now at Glasgow Rangers), who I had grown to admire and being able to make a good impression to fans was something I enjoyed.
VO: You signed your first professional contract with the club last summer. How did it feel to realise your childhood ambition of becoming a professional?
JS: Being able to sign my first professional contract was very emotional for me because of situations away from football, and the fact I was able to overcome them. I was grateful for my first professional contract – it’s testimony to the hard work I’ve been putting in. I remember telling my mum in the car and how we both were crying and laughing. For her, it’s a dream come true to know that her son is doing what he’s set out to do.
VO: You are currently on-loan at Northern Premier League team Radcliffe Borough. What are you learning and what would you say are the main differences between men’s and youth football?
JS: I’m learning how to adapt to different situations in games and getting minutes, which is crucial for my development. The main difference between men’s football and youth football is that youth football is soft, and teams play nice football, which everyone can do when they’re not pressed and there isn’t a sense of urgency. However, playing against men, it’s physical! You will get kicked!! It’s how you can deal it and other scenarios on the pitch – it’s character building.
VO: What are you gaining from this loan experience?
JS: I’m understanding what 3 points actually means and making winning a habit. Being coached by Jon Macken (Manager) and Frank Sinclair (Assistant Manager) has helped improved my understanding of the game as player. They’ve introduced little adjustments to my game that are making me a better player. They’ve both played at the top level with Manchester City and Chelsea and know what they are talking about.
VO: Former Chelsea and Jamaica full-back Franck Sinclair is assistant manager at Radcliffe. As a full-back yourself, has he given you any advice on how to improve your game?
JS: Franck Sinclair comes from the same background as myself and use to coach me at Oldham. It’s easy for me to go and speak to him. Frank has taught me about having a sense of pride in defending and defending smart. As a result of the different techniques he does with the back four, it has improved my consistency in games.
VO: What ambitions do you have in the game and where do you see yourself in the next five years?
JS: My ambition is to influence other people from my area and to show them, there’s always an opportunity to make it far in sport, and if that opportunity arises – make the most of it. Secondly, I prefer to take it one game at a time and what will be, will be.
VO: You qualify to play for Jamaica through your parents, if the chance arose to play for the Reggae Boyz is that something you would consider?
JS: I would love to play because for Jamaica. It would also highlight to other players from my background that there’s an opportunity for international football other than with England.
VO: What is your favourite West Indian dish?
JS: Jerk chicken and Festival.
VO: Has the stance Raheem Sterling has taken on racism inspired you to speak out if you ever faced it?
JS: Raheem Sterling is a prime example of a great athlete who still encounters racism at the highest level. You need to be able to handle it and not to crumble under this type of verbal abuse. I’ve always been told that a lot people would love to have your opportunity to play football, so I use that to block out any abuse. Also, through the power of sport, you can inspire change which is something I hope to do.