Ben Sheaf: I’m enjoying my time at Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 10:37 14 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:37 14 April 2018
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Layth Yousif met up with Arsenal’s highly-rated Ben Sheaf, who is impressing on loan at Stevenage. Read on to learn more on the talented midifielder.
Arsenal’s creative midfielder has been on loan at League Two Stevenage since January.
After an injury he picked up in his first training session which put him out for three weeks, he is gradually earning rave reviews for the quality of his performances, as he prepares to face Boro’s local rivals Cambridge United at the Lamex on Saturday.
It has been a disappointing season for Stevenage. Blessed with a talented squad, a mix of youthful exuberance allied with wise old heads.
But poor results saw the dismissal of previous boss Darren Sarll before Dino Mammria took over.
The change has coincided with an upturn in results as the club go into the Cambridge clash four games unbeaten, including carving out a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Newport County AFC in South Wales and a clinical dismantling of Barnet 4-1 on Bank Holiday Monday.
Sheaf says he has enjoyed the experience which has been a learning curve.
He says: “It’s been good. It’s been nice to be here. I didn’t have the best of starts coming in and getting injured straight away but since I’ve been back fit I’ve played a decent amount of games and been in the team pretty regularly.
“It’s been about coming to Stevenage and getting first team football and as much experience as I can including the last four games of the season.”
What are the main differences between U23 football and League Two?
He replies emphatically: “I think you realise there is a lot on the line.
“You can’t always way play ‘pretty’ football all the time.
“We play nice football at Arsenal but I’ve learned sometimes you have to win ‘nasty’ and that the football you play doesn’t always have to be pretty all the time. “Definitely that and of course the physical side of it as well as understanding the game – such as areas to play in and not to play in.
“I’m learning about risks and benefits but overall it’s definitely been a good learning experience for me.”
Stevenage are looking to climb the table in a bid to end the season on a high with a view to a longer-for promotion push next term.
And Sheaf is grateful for what he has learned so far.
“The boys here at Stevenage and the manager [Maamria] have definitely helped me since I’ve been here. The lads have been brilliant to me.
“Both managers [Sarrl then Maamria] have been really good to me and I’ve really enjoyed my time here.
“I’m learning more and more every game. That’s what it’s all about. I’m definitely more comfortable in the team which has been good. I spoke to a few of the senior boys at Stevenage and they all told me League Two isn’t an easy place to come in and learn your trade. It’s physical.
“It’s not the prettiest football at times but they said to me I’ve done well and I’ve just got to keep working hard and learning which I want to do.
“You’ve just got to embrace every moment of it.”
Which is exactly what he’s doing.
Stevenage boss Maamria made a point of hailing Sheaf’s performance after his side routed visitors Barnet 4-1 at the Lamex after Easter.
Sheaf has been playing with another Premier League loanee, Luke Amos from Spurs, who has also been doing well. It was instructive Maamria explained the pair excelled in that match, but only after the opening 20 when they took time to find their rhythm in the hurly-burly of the fourth tier.
The inference was clear. Sheaf understood what he needed to do to influence the game and adjusted his play accordingly.
Sheaf adds: “Just being in and around the first team which I did quite regularly before I came here means you can pick up the tempo of the training. He’s renowned for giving young players a chance and he gave me a chance.
“Once I finish the season at Stevenage I want to go back and prove to him [Wenger] that I’m good enough to play first team football for the Arsenal. I feel I’m ready. I want to play week in week out.”
What did Wenger say to him before he left?
“Arsene Wenger told me before I went on loan to Stevenage ‘just go and play as much as you can and make the most of it’.”
Making the most of it could be a mantra applied to Sheaf.
To learn more about the excellent work Stevenage FC do in the community, as well as their highly-accliamed soccer schools visit www.stevenagefc.com