Arthur Iontton Q&A as the Stevenage starlet opens up: ‘I’m very honoured to have won League Two apprentice of the year’
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Stevenage’s highly-rated Arthur Iontton has been voted League Two’s apprentice of the year. Read Layth Yousif’s in-depth Q&A with the talented teenager tipped by many to become the club’s next £1m sale.
LY: I’m with Stevenage’s Arthur Iontton, a star of the future, a star of the present you could say after being voted the League Two apprentice of the year. Firstly, congratulations, how do you feel about the award?
AI: It’s a fantastic achievement for me. I’m very honoured and very proud to have won it. It just feels like the hard work is starting to pay off now. I’ve been here since the age of ten and it feels great to have won it.
LY: I just talked to your manager Dino Maamria and he was extolling your virtues. Not just in terms of your technical ability and what you bring to a football pitch but he was very impressed with your temperament and character and willingness to listen, learn and work hard. He said what struck him was your attitude, the fact you’re first on the pitch in training and last off it – where does that come from?
AI: I think I’ve just grown up with it really. From the youth team onwards it’s been drilled into us when we were young. Everyone’s been so supportive around me and I just try and give something back because I know the gaffer has put his trust in me and that means a lot.
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LY: I’ve seen a lot of your games this season. I was down at Wimbledon for the Checkatrade game. That was a difficult evening but even then you looked special and stood out. I think you learned a lot that night didn’t you?
AI: Yes I did. I think I came on at 2-0 down. It’s difficult to come on during a game sometimes but I was lucky in that I had the experienced lads around me. It’s all a learning curve and I’m enjoying it.
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LY: What struck me that night and every time I see you is the fact you’re not afraid to give advice to older pro’s, which shows character in my book. You seem to be fearless on the pitch in terms of being vocal and a confident presence. Would you say that?
AI: I think that’s developed this year. At the start of the season I was given the captain’s armband for the youth team and that was a great responsibility for me. I’ve taken it into this year. The older lads have told me to have a go at them. Ronne [Henry], Revs [Alex Revell], Scott, all of the older lads. They’ve all been great for me and I can only thank them for their help.
LY: I think you’re being modest there because they are big, experienced lads with a big presence and you’ve come in and slotted in seamlessly…
AI: As you know they’ve had some fantastic careers and been around at bigger clubs and higher levels so to fit into a team with all of them is a fantastic achievement for me and one I’m very proud of.
LY: Just talk us through the highlights of your season so far?
AI: I think to get a professional contract early on this season – I was going into the season hoping to get a contract in my second season. To have played as many games as I have. I always set myself targets at the start of the season and I set myself a target of five first team games by the end of the season. So to have played almost 15, I’m happy. My performance against Newport at home on New Years Day when we had ten men. We had to dig deep to win 1-0 and luckily I got man of the match.
I think perhaps the most disappointing game was the defeat at Cambridge. I found it really hard to get into the game. I couldn’t get on the ball and show what I could do and I came off at half-time. But it’s all a massive learning curve and all good experience.
LY: It does seem like the technical ability of young players has improved so much these days. Is that through the academy system do you think? Where has your technical ability come from?
AI: I’ve always practiced at home with my dad. I think the youth team and the academy also has a massive part to play in that because they’re always trying to improve your touch. From the age of ten to 18 I’ve always had so much time with a football. All my coaches have been very supportive and know which parts of my game for me to work on.
LY: That’s good to hear. Tell us a little about yourself for people who may not know too much about you?
AI: I was born in North London…
LY: Arsenal or Spurs?
AI: I was born in Enfield and I’m a Spurs fan.
LY: Oh dear…
AI: [Laughs] I went to Winchmore School. I went to the opening warm-up game at the new White Hart Lane. I couldn’t make the opening game against Crystal Palace but the stadium looked amazing.
So, I played for a local Sunday league team. There were a few club’s watching me and I had a trial at Stevenage on the Thursday. On the Saturday I scored quite a good goal and I was signed up for the youth team there and then. Charlton and West Ham were looking at me but Stevenage were the first to offer me a contract. I was buzzing to sign a contract deal.
LY: What would you say is the main difference playing academy football and FA Youth Cup football as opposed to playing in League Two against hardened pros?
AI: I think academy football is all about players development. It’s not solely focussed on results, on winning, on picking up the three points. The FA Youth Cup is a massive competition for youth players because it is the biggest part of your season. You really look forward to that. We were gutted when we were knocked out this year but it’s all a learning curve.
First team football is much tougher. People are fighting for their mortgages. Three points are massive. You have to adapt quickly and try and minimise risks. My targets are that I’m solely focused on Stevenage and looking to get as many starts as I can. The club is on the up and I’m looking forward to being part of it.
Hopefully I can get as many games as I can. An international call-up is something I would love. I would like to emulate Ben Wilmot [who played for England U18 last season]. That’s something that I would love but I need to keep working hard.
LY: Ben Wilmot was the club’s first £1m sale. Do you think there’s a possibility you could be the next…?
AI: Yes, I think there’s a possibility that I could be but me and Ben are different people and different types of players. I just have to take every game as it comes and see where it gets me and see how I develop. If it happens it happens.
LY: Talk us through your strengths?
AI: I think I’m a very composed type of player on the ball. I’ve got a bit of bite about me. I like getting on the ball. I can find a good pass. A bit of vision and creativity. I can get out of areas with my quick feet although I still think that’s an area I can develop.
LY: What would you like to improve on?
AI: My speed. I think you need that at the top level. You can develop in every area to make it your strength. I try and work on my shooting. I want to get more goals for the club.
LY: Tell us about yourself. What sort of music are you into?
AI: Music? [Smiles] I like a bit of hip-hop. Rap. Anything really.
LY: I interviewed Luther [James Wildin] earlier in the season and he plays the piano…
AI: Luther’s brilliant. He’s really talented. He showed me videos of him playing.
LY: I’ll put you on the spot here as the lads file past you after training but who’s the worst dresser?
AI: The worst dresser? [Ben Nugent walks past in what can only be described as Worzel Gummage chic]. Definitely Ben Nugent!
The state of his socks! The state of him…
LY: [Laughs] What about the close season. What are you up to?
AI: We’re still pushing for the play-offs so nothing’s booked yet but I would like to go on a lads holiday.
[Ilias Chair walks past]
LY: [Nods to the QPR loanee]. I covered his performance at League Two leaders Lincoln. He scored two great goals, hit the post twice and had two cleared off the line in what was probably the best performance I’ve seen from a lower league player in more than 30 years. What’s it like playing football with Ilias?
AI: He’s a big player. I just try and give him the ball as much as I can. He’s just a fantastic player. He’s phenomenal. He could have had four or five that day. I’m learning from playing and training with him every day 100 per cent. The way he gets on the ball and turns and runs at players is fantastic. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to adapt and get those attributes into my game but I always watch and try and learn as much as I can from him.
LY: Message for the fans?
AI: They’ve been so supportive with me all season. They’ve been so patient. I just hope their support continues.
LY: Top man, thanks for your time.
AI: Cheers Layth all the best.
Follow sports reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29 and for live updates from Blundell Park on Saturday when he covers Stevenage at Grimbsy Town.
See CometSport online and the Comet newspaper next week for Layth’s in-depth feature on the talented Arthur