JLLOYD Samuel, the left-back set for his Cardiff City debut against Derby tomorrow, has spoken about how he began his football adventure alongside Chelsea and England stars John Terry and Ashley Cole.
Samuel and Terry were teammates at the renowned Senrab club in Walthamstow and their formative football years saw them play with, and against, a host of lads who would later go on to fame and fortune in the Premier League.
The Bluebirds’ critical clash with the Rams is a long way from the muddy pitches of Wanstead Flats in London where Samuel played alongside Terry and came up against Cole on a regular basis.
And there will certainly be less of the carefree enjoyment of youth with so much at stake for the home side in their quest for promotion and the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Terry and Cole on a regular basis.
All the same though, Samuel’s path to the bright lights of the top flight is an interesting one.
That Senrab team (named after England star John Barnes, but spelt backwards) included a host of players who went on to become household names for football fans.
Paul Konchesky, Bobby Zamora and Ledley King were among them, and they would regularly cross swords on a Sunday morning with future England internationals Scott Parker and Cole who, in those days, was scoring 100 goals a season as a centre-forward.
Samuel lost touch with Terry, but remembers how the England skipper started on the road to stardom as a ‘short and stumpy midfielder’ back in his junior days.
“John was always a good footballer and I always thought he would go on to be a creative midfielder,” said Samuel. “He wasn’t captain. Back then Kemi Izzet (brother of former Leicester City midfielder Muzzy) was skipper.
“You could see how comfortable John was on the ball that he was good and the presence he has now has always been there, even at an early age. But he has certainly shot up – he was quite short and stumpy back then.”
Samuel, who has been training with Cardiff City this week, added: “We didn’t lose many games.
“Why? Well, I don’t think they will have had so many quality players in the same team before or since. It was a bit of a freak.
“There were only really two teams who used to compete with us. Scott Parker’s old team from South London and Ashley Cole’s team, Puma.
“We won a lot of trophies but it wasn’t as if we were scouted to go to Senrab. For some reason we just all ended up in the same place.”
Other Senrab graduates include Sol Campbell, Muzzy Izzet, Lee Bowyer, Jermain Defoe, Ade Akinbiyi and former Cardiff City captain Darren Purse.
While Terry and Cole contemplate their chances of success in the Premier League and Champions League with Chelsea, Samuel is looking to kick-start his playing career by spending the rest of this season with Cardiff as they aim for promotion.
Tomorrow, at Cardiff City Stadium, Bluebirds manager Dave Jones is contemplating a new-look back four with Samuel slotting in alongside Paul Quinn, Dekel Keinan and Kevin McNaughton.
Samuel has not played first team football in a year, but he’s been training hard and figured in a series of Bolton reserve team games.
“I’ve come here to play games,” said Samuel, whose career has been curtailed by a serious thigh injury.