Peterborough United first-year apprentice Ricky-Jade Jones has penned his first professional contract on his 17th birthday, signing a long-term deal with the Sky Bet League One club.
The budding striker has made a big impression on manager Darren Ferguson, who described him as “the quickest player I’ve ever managed” after showing glimpses of his ability as a late substitute in a Leasing.com Trophy win against Arsenal Under-21s in October.
“It is a great feeling,” Jones told the club website. “I remember making my debut for the club as a nine-year-old. It is mad because I think I scored nine goals! It was a proud feeling to make my first-team debut last month and the next ambition is to start a game.
“The coaches within the Academy have been great with me and the first-team manager Darren Ferguson is brilliant – you know that he wants to give young players an opportunity if they earn them. It is really important to see there is a pathway and then it is down to me to take the opportunity.
“Signing a professional contract is amazing, it was a great moment for me and my family who have been so supportive. Kyle Barker and Harrison Burrows have really helped me because they have had a similar journey.”
Ferguson added: “Ricky’s family were very excited when I met them, they are a great group and very close and Ricky is an outstanding young man. He deserves the professional contract. We feel he has real potential, he has a great attitude and work ethic. His pressing is really good, he has been excellent in training and he has progressed right through the Academy.
“It is just the start, but he has a desire to work hard and that is vitally important. He has real quality, is a big lad, has unbelievable pace and is the quickest player that I have worked with. He wants to learn, he wants to listen and improve his game and that is all you can ask. I am looking forward to helping him develop.”
Academy manager Kieran Scarff said: “Two things that have remained very constant with Ricky are his enthusiasm and his pace. He’s always been quick but there’s been a technical improvement in him, so he’s coming through the programme really well. He’s such a likeable lad, so enthusiastic about football and life in general.
“I can see Ricky becoming a good role model. He’s very polite and very respectful, he’s got good family values that have clearly been instilled in him from being young, so he’s got good foundations to build from.”