Small town is in safe hands

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

A SMALL town in County Durham has developed a knack for producing promising goalkeeping talents.

After watching Ross Turnbull emerge from the ranks and secure a move to Chelsea, now Middlesbrough have a new shot-stopper intent on making a name for himself.

Newton Aycliffe-born Jason Steele, regarded as a prospect for full England honours, made a solid first-team debut on Tuesday for the club he joined at the age of 12, when he helped Middlesbrough progress in the Carling Cup at Chesterfield.

Steele does not turn 20 until next Wednesday, but he has given manager Gordon Strachan an option as talks with Liverpool continue over the proposed sale of current number one Brad Jones.

Middlesbrough still hope to strike a £3.5m deal for Jones, who was left to watch from the stands against the Spirerites, and that has left Steele hungry for more after graduating through the ranks for his country at Under-16s through to Under-20s level.

“England put me in good stead but nothing helps you like Tuesday,” said Steele, who made 13 appearances on loan at Northampton last season.

“Undoubtedly I want more. I just have to work hard in training and keep showing the manager that I’m ready when called upon. He might send me on loan if he doesn’t think I am.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I felt ready because I do. I have played quite a few games for my age now and I’m ready to step in. It’s all down to the manager and I just have to keep working as hard as I possible can.”

Steele was not expecting to start at Chesterfield, so he had told his parents, Paul and Sonia, not to bother travelling to the new b2net Stadium to watch the Carling Cup tie.

They did travel, though, and the 19-year-old was pleased they got the chance to see him make his debut.

“I was pleased they made it.

God knows how many miles they do following me around,”

said Steele, who could find himself on the bench at Leicester City on Saturday “It’s not just all of my hard work that earned this start, I must thank Stephen Pears. He has had me since I was 12. He left the club in the summer, but everything is down to him and he was probably quite proud watching.”

Being under Pears’ wing was also the route which Turnbull took.

The close friends both attended Woodham Community Technology College, albeit a few years apart, and Chelsea’s former Boro goalkeeper has often given him advice.

“I was speaking with Ross on the morning of the game.

I’m sure he will get his chance at Chelsea,” said Steele, who follows in the footsteps of fellow Aycliffe Football League players such as Brian Atkinson, Danny Mellanby, Darren Craddock and Simon Ramsden.

“Me and Ross are really close. We play golf and everything together. It’s weird that there are two keepers from the town to come through at Boro in such a short space of time.

“My friends know his friends, so we always knew each other. He has also helped me a lot since I joined Boro, since I was 15 or 16. He left school the year I joined.”

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