Sutton United apprentice Javon Marquis has already had to overcome obstacles during his short career so far. Being born with dyslexia and a speech impediment made certain aspects of his childhood and daily life more challenging than usual.
“When I was young, I never really knew anything about my condition but at school I always found it difficult in lessons and used to feel overwhelmed because I wouldn’t be able to understand things when everyone else around me would, Javon told LFE. “I would feel scared because of my stammer and be wary of what people would say about me or if they’d laugh at me. I had one experience when I was younger when I was reading out to the class, and I couldn’t say a certain word and there were giggles coming from behind me. It made me nervous.”
Despite the difficulties he faced in certain social situations and at school, football was always Javon’s escapism. “Football was almost like an escape. I didn’t need to think about it, I’d just have fun. As I got older, learnt to deal with my condition better and football really helped me do that. Off the field I was and still am quiet, but on the field I felt confident. Sport is a great way to almost relax. For someone like me with communication problems, being around people every day makes you feel a lot more confident and comfortable. Football makes me feel stress-free and lets me just enjoy myself.”
After spending a few years at Millwall’s Academy, Javon left to sign a scholarship at Sutton United where he is now in his second year of his apprenticeship. “I signed for Sutton when I was 16. My first year was quite up and down but this year I feel more confident, and I feel like I bring a lot to the team. Even though I don’t say much off the field, I feel like I help people. For example, the younger kids coming up into their first year of the apprenticeship, I try and make them feel comfortable.”
Even though he’s only been with the south London club for a little under 18 months, the all action full-back credits the staff at Sutton for their role in his development both as a footballer and as a person. “The best thing about the people here (Sutton United) is that they don’t treat me any differently. Just because I have a stammer, they don’t feel the need to treat me in a different way to anyone else, but if there is something I don’t understand or I’m struggling with, they help me a lot.
“My leadership and communication has massively improved since I began my apprenticeship here. Like I said before I was really shy and I never wanted to speak out, but with the work that we do in class and the lessons and workshops that are put on for us, I really feel like I can be a leader and help others around me. These skills transfer onto the pitch as well because now I always want to try and help and motivate my teammates. My communication skills have improved massively too, and I take that out onto the pitch as well. In football, especially on the pitch, everyone needs different treatment depending on their personality. Some people will need more of an arm round their shoulder, whereas others need yelling at sometimes to motivate them. It’s the same in the classroom. You need to understand how to approach different people and what will help make them focus. They’re definitely the two most valuable life skills I have improved during my time as an apprentice. I owe a lot to Sutton because they really help me. Compared to when I joined at 16, I feel so much more confident thanks to them. They’ve made me feel like I can be the leader in the team that I know I can be.”
Javon also praised the contribution that LFE have made towards his personal development and believes the transferrable skills that can be learnt in life skills workshops are vitally important. “They’re really important (LFE workshops) because I’ve learnt a lot about stuff that I didn’t know or have any idea about before. Football is a simple sport, but there’s so much that goes on off the pitch that contributes. The stuff we learn off the pitch, we try to implement into our daily lives. For example, learning about nutrition. Personally, when I started here, I wasn’t eating the best foods, the right foods but since learning about nutrition I know what I should be eating, what will help me improve my energy and performance. Since I’ve made changes, I’ve definitely noticed a difference on the pitch.”
Away from the Academy environment, Javon admits his parents play a huge role and detailed the biggest difference between the two of them. “My mum and dad are my biggest influences. It’s a case of good cop and bad cop. My dad can be hard on me, but I need that toughness at times as it keeps my levels and standards high, so when I’ve played a bad game, he will definitely let me know I’ve played a bad game! Whereas with my mum, if I’ve played badly, she will just encourage me and tell me not to stress.”
On the pitch, the 18-year-old hailed Watford’s Ken Sema as an inspiration of his. The Swedish winger also suffers from a stammer and was praised for an interview he did post-match back in February of last year and has since expressed his desire to act as a role model for those suffering from similar conditions. “I saw the interview (Ken Sema) and I thought he was very brave. For him to go out on a big channel for a big league like the Championship to express how he feels is really inspiring. It makes you think if he can do it then I’m confident I can as well and others in a similar position. We shouldn’t be scared. The praise he received online and from the football community was nice to see and really filled me with confidence. Football is a family.”
In terms of who he looks up to as a right-back, Javon pin-pointed England and Manchester City defender Kyle Walker. “I love Walker. He’s who I look up to in my position. He’s such a rounded, overall player. Him and Reece James, because they can attack but they’re great defence, in one v ones, aerially, everything. I try to base my game off theirs because to be a full back in the modern era, you need to be good at everything.”
When discussing Sutton’s U18s relatively successful start to the campaign, Javon went on to highlight his own personal goals he is working towards. “We’re doing well. We’re in the semi-finals of the cup, we’re fourth in the league and the whole team is performing well. My personal goals are to stay injury free and hopefully earn a pro contract at the end of my apprenticeship. Then if all goes to plan, maybe get loaned out somewhere to gain some experience of first team football. It’s really important to get that taste of senior football I think because the transition from is a big one, especially physically, so the earlier you do it the more comfortable you’ll be if you get that chance at first team level. You won’t feel out of place, and you’ll know the importance of winning games, whereas with youth football it’s more about development and improving. I want to play at the highest level possible and for my country in the long term, but short time I just want to make sure I play in the football league. I just want to make sure I have a good career I can be proud of.”