A year is a long time in football and the last 12 months have been a whirlwind for Jack Sherratt. Having been announced as the winner of the Samsung Win A Pro competition in the spring, his life has been transformed as he’s gone from university student to professional footballer in the blink of an eye.
Having moved down from his family home in Stoke-On-Trent, the 20-year-old has now had time to settle in to his new life so we sat down with him to find out how he’s getting on.
Jack picks up the story of a crazy year: “This time last year I was at Manchester Metropolitan University and I would have been planning to go back there, but this is ten times better than being at uni! The time that I found out that I’d won the competition was when I had crucial exams on, so I couldn’t really revise because my mind was all over the place. I’ve got a few re-sits but they’ve let me defer them so I can concentrate on my football.
“The day I found out I had won was crazy, the Samsung crew and two camera crews turned up to my house, they were meant to turn up at 1pm but the man with the envelope turned up 45 minutes late which was agonising. He said that there were two clubs up for grabs for three of you and one of you is not going to get it but here’s your envelope. I opened it and it said “Congratulations you’ve won a contract with Leyton Orient” and words can’t describe how I felt at that moment.
“My mum and dad went crazy but I just felt on top of the world to reach my dream, or get close to reaching my dream because I haven’t done it yet. I need to get on the pitch now. I’m aiming to get my debut, get my place in the team and I’ve got to earn my place. It’s just a great chance for me.
“So far though I’m loving every minute of it. The lads have been great with me and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of lads really. They’ve all made me feel really welcome, I don’t think any one of them has got a big ego and that helps because we all stick together.
“The manager (Russell Slade) has been so welcoming too and right from the start he’s said to me: “You’ve got a great opportunity here so make sure you work hard and to enjoy it and give it you’re all. You can’t do much more than that.”
The move south is a big step for the youngster though he admits the transition has been made easier with the help of skipper Nathan Clarke who he has been living with.
“It’s my first time away from home but it’s going really well. The family that I’m living with are all really nice people and that helps because they’ve made it feel like it’s my home really. Clarkey’s (Nathan Clarke) there as well which is good because obviously he’s the captain and is a great person to talk to. He’s been a great player and pro for a while now so I can learn a lot from him,” said Sherratt.
Part and parcel of his new environment is the inevitable changing room banter that goes on at a football club and the youngster has taken a bit of time to get used to the fines system that the players live by.
“All the boys keep stitching me up! Jonesy (Jamie Jones) said the showers were cold the other day so I walked in without flip-flops with my kit on to see if they were and they weren’t and then all the lads cheered as that was a fine!
“They all keep changing the clock for the meetings as well. In the mornings you have to do your individual programmes and I think a few us were in the gym and we’ve walked in and they’d changed the clock back so it looked like we were late. You hear that noise when they all go “Wahey!” and you know you’ve been had! I think Lloydy’s (Lloyd James) is behind it. It’s great though as it’s all good fun and brings you into the group, it just means my wallet is a bit thinner!”
Sherratt is quick to point out that winning the competition is just the start and that the hard work begins now. Jack was part of the Port Vale Academy for eight years and represented England Schoolboys at U18’s level whilst he was also invited to trial at the likes of Fleetwood Town and Torquay United so is no stranger to playing at a good level, though has learnt quickly that the professional world is a different ball game altogether.
“You have to be quicker, you have to be on your toes more than in non-league and one of the big differences is that you have to be on the top of your game all the time in training as well. It’s a job now not a hobby and you’ve got to be on it every day and follow it through to the weekend to keep that momentum going.
“There’s things I need to work on and I know I need to quicken up and just improve my sharpness really. Obviously it’s a lot faster so you have to be training at the same level that you’d be playing at in a game but I feel like I’m starting to make progress.”
The midfielder is giving himself every opportunity to do that though and is regularly one of the first and last to leave the training ground whilst he’s made an effort to attend matches with the squad even when not selected and has a hunger to make his full debut having featured at the Matchroom Stadium against Arsenal in a pre-season friendly.
“It was a great experience, playing in front of the fans at home in the stadium was overwhelming really. That made me realise how far I’ve come, looking at the crowd and certain players who were in the team that day.
“I’ve always wanted to become a footballer. It’s easy for everyone to say that but you’d have to ask my mum and dad to know that I’ve wanted this since I was a young lad. I’m just loving every minute of it and I can’t stop smiling.”
Don’t miss the next big interview in the Walsall programme