Jeremiah Gyebi: The English youngster inspired to move to Slovenia by Jadon Sancho

By Will Unwin

When it comes to looking for career advice Jadon Sancho is not a bad person to turn to as a teenage footballer plotting your next move.

North Londoner Jeremiah Gyebi was told he would not be offered a professional contract at League Two Yeovil Town, so took on Sancho’s words about how he has enjoyed playing abroad at Borussia Dortmund since leaving Manchester City in 2017.

Sancho has had a meteoric rise in the Bundesliga, becoming a full England international last year and Gyebi sees the potential of boosting his profile abroad.

Gyebi and Sancho are part of a Snapchat group, having become close friends during childhood, which also includes Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson, one of Gyebi’s best friends from the London Nautical school, which they both attended.

In the end Gyebi headed to the Slovenia second division to join NK Ankaran in order to start his career as a professional after two years as a scholar at Huish Park.

“With Jadon being out in Dortmund, in our group chat he was telling us how it is abroad, how good life is playing there, that it doesn’t matter about your age and stuff, so he was always feeding us what’s it’s like playing abroad, so in the back of my mind I was always ready to go to play abroad and I was always speaking to my agent," Gyebi told ITV News.

“There was always an option there. After it happened [being released] there was interest from other clubs’ Under-23 teams but nothing concrete but with Slovenia my agent told me if I go for one week and if I did well I would be offered a contract, so I thought there was no harm in doing that and it all went well.”

The defender had featured for Yeovil in a pre-season friendly against Bournemouth but his other experience of men’s football came during a loan spell at Poole Town, so stepping up to the professional ranks in Slovenia meant plenty of change for the 19-year-old who had the comfort of being joined by fellow Englishman Ben Agyeman-Badu.

“I would say it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Before I went to Slovenia I did a lot of research to see what kind of country it is and I thought I would struggle with fitting in and the language barrier but I did go with another player, who was at Blackpool but then he ad a season in Serbia, which is similar to Slovenia in a way.

“We were together most of the time and he helped me a lot in terms of helping me settle in, he was teaching me the language, so without him I would have struggled but with it made it easy.”

For a young professional there was plenty to absorb upon his arrival in Slovenia at a club trying to rebuild following relegation. Gyebi made nine appearances in the first half of the season with his new employer.

Gyebi (right) in action for NK Ankaran. Credit: NK Ankaran

“The only downside about going out there was that NK Ankaran had just be relegated from the premier division, which attracted me. I thought it would be a very good setup with very good facilities, however, I didn’t know going in there that they’d lost the coaches and players, so they were rebuilding, so it was nowhere near as professional as Yeovil Town.”

Gyebi is living in the small town the club is based in and being a tall black man means he stands out in an area lacking in diversity.

“In my team me and Ben are black and there were two Nigerians as well but the whole town we were staying in, out of the 9,000 population there wasn’t a single black person. I am 6ft4 with dreadlocks, so when I walk around the town I get a lot of looks but there was no racism."

It is a surprising place for a youngster to start his career. Gyebi trialled at clubs as a schoolboy but was never part of a club’s academy until he moved to Yeovil as a 16-year-old after being spotted play against the the Glover’s youth team.

"I didn't really have a choice, it was either signing a scholarship with Yeovil or trying to find a college for six form. It was a no-brainer. When I was offered the scholarship I just wanted to sign it straight away. It didn't really faze me being 16 and having to go live in a small town. I just wanted to play football.

"At first I did struggle a bit. When training in my first year, I was only 16,17; I wasn't used to the professional environment or experienced players so it was all a bit of a shock for me in terms of the game play, training, even the mentality they have is very different.

“I did, however, get used to it and once I was a second year I'd become more of a man and a professional; I was training with them every day, getting better, getting stronger mentally and physically. That led to me making my debut against Bournemouth, so it was a great experience.”

Gyebi has come a long way from Somerset and is now open to see where the next stage of his career will take him having adapted to the adult game and he is very open minded.

“I see English players who have gone to Cambodia, Thailand, India and that’s a massive step but if my agent thinks it’s the right move for me and my family are happy with it, then why not? At the end of the day my ambition is to play as many league games at as high a level as possible and if that’s the case, I am not one to complain."