It is a cold and wet December morning in Rotherham and Jovanni Sterling is eager to get out and “work hard” at training.
The 17-year-old central defender though is instead catching up with LFE to talk about his recent exposure on BBC Radio 1 extra. As a rapper. Hard work is a prerequisite for those entering the music or football industry. Sterling is doing both. The video of his ‘Man Like’ track has already ratcheted up to 50,000 views on YouTube.
A player by day, an aspiring rap artist in whatever other time he has spare, Sterling is making a name for himself on and off the pitch and has already cut a number of tracks. It’s probably fitting then that his stage name away from football is ‘Graft’. “The name is simple, literally I work hard in most things so ‘Graft’ was obvious,” he says.
“I rap about things going on my life or things that happen there’s no motive other than that really.
“It’s a release away from football, maybe you could say it’s a coping mechanism because it gives me a good feeling but I don’t take as much notice or take myself as seriously with music as football.
“Football is more intense, much more intense. It was a hobby that I did in my spare time, I probably started 3 or 4 years ago and all of my friends do it so I just continued with it.”
Sterling joined Rotherham at the start of this season from Leeds and stressed that he is enjoying his football in his new surroundings. “It’s been going really well over at Rotherham,” he said.
“I really enjoy it here and feel like I have a lot to offer. I’m quite vocal on the pitch and I think communication and leadership skills are qualities that you need in football and that coaches look at.
“I have some of those qualities but the coaches here are helping me to work on my good points but also the weaknesses in my game to make me better. We get to train with the first team a lot and I want to make an impression on the coaches at that level.”
It has helped that his team-mates have taken to the new boy and offered their dressing room support, though Sterling is quick to point out that when asked which industry he wants to work in, he has a clear preference.
“The lads here are supportive, they always ask me about what I’m doing and when I’m putting new music together,” he continued.
“It can be difficult to find the time to record now I’m at Rotherham because I travel further to get in to work so that makes a difference to what I can and can’t do. I find time on Sunday’s though to put the videos together and it’s something I really enjoy doing.
“I still get nerves before games and think about football and that sort of stuff. When people say, ‘do you want to be a musician or a footballer’? I always say football one hundred per cent but who knows what’ll happen in the future.”