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Long-Serving Stanley Defender Sykes Takes Belgian Opportunity

Long-Serving Stanley Defender Sykes Takes Belgian Opportunity

Accrington Stanley academy graduate Ross Sykes has chosen to depart the club after 10 years of service, with the defender agreeing to join Belgian outfit Royale Union Saint-Gilloise for an undisclosed fee.

The 23-year-old, who has penned a four-year contract with an optional 12-month extension, arrived at Accy after being released by hometown side Burnley, and made his senior bow at the age of 17 in the EFL Trophy in August 2016.

Following a loan spell at Southport, Sykes’ breakthrough campaign came in 2018/19, making 26 appearances in all competitions and scoring four goals from the back, including a brace against Walsall in April 2019.

The sought-after centre back featured 131 times for Stanley, but now embarks on a European adventure, with Union SG preparing to enter the UEFA Champions League qualifiers.

“I have been here 10 years, so I am still getting my head around everything,” he told Accrington’s website. “It’s a lot to take in – moving to another country – but I am looking forward to it.

“My time here has flown by. I remember my first day as two of my mates were here. They got me in on trial and two weeks later I got signed on. Coming through the Academy and making my first team debut was unbelievable.

“A highlight was in my first season, scoring two against Walsall at home. I think we were in a relegation battle and I still get goosebumps when I watch it back now. I remember celebrating with the fans after the game.

“The support the fans have given me since my debut has been unbelievable, the love I have for them is the next level and I can’t thank them enough for how much they have supported me throughout the years.

“I have always had great support from the gaffer since I came through, aged 16/17. John and Jimmy (Bell) gave me a chance – I wouldn’t be where I am now without them, so I can’t thank them enough.

“I knew little bits about Belgian football as I follow football around the globe. I know most of the clubs over there – it’s a good challenge. It’s an opportunity you can’t turn down, you might never get the opportunity to play abroad again, so when it comes around, you have got to take it.

“They are in Europe next season and I am just focused on that season. Whatever happens, being here has been massive. All the coaches through the Academy, Dave Fitzgerald, Paul Lodge, Andy Gray, I don’t want to miss anyone out – the support throughout the years has been unbelievable and I wouldn’t be the player I am today without them.”

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