Stevenage teenage starlet and League Two apprentice of the year Arthur Iontton: ‘The difference between academy and professional football is people fighting for their mortgages’
PUBLISHED: 14:30 09 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:30 09 April 2019
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The future looks bright for Stevenage’s talented teen Arthur Iontton who has been awarded the highly-coveted League Two apprentice of the year this weeek.
The starlet, who is set to follow Ben Wilmott as the club’s next £1m-rated player, has enjoyed a breakthrough season in the maelstrom of the fourth tier.
With an excellent technique allied with vision and quick feet Iontton has shone in the hurly-burly of the professional game – yet it is his exemplary temperament, character and attitude which has caught the eye.
Speaking to CometSport at the club’s training ground Bragbury End, modest Iontton said: “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.
“Everyone’s been so supportive around me and I just try and give something back because I know the gaffer [Dino Maamria] has put his trust in me and that means a lot. The hard work starts now.”
The highly-rated 18-year-old North Londoner Iontton joined Boro at the age of ten in 2011 and progressed through the various levels of the club’s youth system signing a pre-scholarship deal aged 14 after impressing academy coach and former boss Darren Sarll, with Stevenage beating off competition from West Ham and Charlton for his signature.
He captained the club’s U16 side during the 2016-17 also appearing for the U18s that term while two years younger than the majority of his peers.
Iontton signed a two-year academy scholarship with the Broadhall Way outfit last June and has been steadily learning his craft.
While there have been bumps in the road, most notably a record 8-0 home defeat by a lively Charlton side at the Lamex in the Checkatrade Trophy along with a 4-0 loss at AFC Wimbledon, Iontton has impressed many seasoned observers.
Iontton recalled: “I learned a lot that night. 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.
“Ronnie [Henry], Revs [Alex Revell], Scott [Cuthbert], all of the older lads. They’ve all been great for me and I can only thank them for their help.
“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.”
The standout scholar is just the latest in an ever-growing production line of talent to come out from Shephalbury Sports Academy that is fast-earning a reputation for producing real talent.
After making four appearances for the first team early on this term the midfielder has now featured in more than 15 matches.
Analysing his progress the astute Iontton explained: “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.”
Perhaps his best effort this term was when he landed a man of the match award for his superb display against Newport County on New Year’s Day as the 10 men of Stevenage notched a late victory against Mike Flynn’s tough side.
The personable Iontton said: “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.”
Iontton has quickly learned the difference between academy football and the professional game, believing youth games area more about development, whereas the first team area all about results.
But does Iontton believe he can emulate academy alumnus Wilmott into the top flight and a seven figure deal?
“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.”
The answer is indicative of Iontton’s mature personality and a refusal to be anything other than a genuine unprepossessing teenager.
As we wrap up the interview held at the club’s player complex at the state of the art training ground, the troops file out after being put through their paces by Maamria.
Without missing a beat Iontton praises the passing Ilias Chair – who has lit up League Two this year, including the best performance this correspondent has seen by a fourth tier attacker in more than three decades of watching lower league football when grabbing two goals at league leaders Lincoln, while also hitting the post twice and having two chances cleared off the line.
Iontton also proves he’s one of the boys when ruefully shaking his head when giant centre-half Ben Nugent walks past dressed in what can only be described as Worzel Gummage chic.
“Look at the state of his socks,” Iontton replies with a smile. The no-nonsense Nugent gives a ‘robust’ reply to laughs all round, but it is clear that there is respect there among the squad for the young Iontton.
As Iontton continue to progress through a mixture of hard work, dedication to his craft, talent and an exemplary attitude, respect is what this lad will be earning from players far higher up the game very soon.
Follow sports reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29