Field of dreams come into sight for rising star Jonny

SCORING FOR FUN: Spalding United striker Jonny Lockie outside South Holland Post 16 Centre, Spalding, where he is studying sport.
SCORING FOR FUN: Spalding United striker Jonny Lockie outside South Holland Post 16 Centre, Spalding, where he is studying sport.
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When football-mad teenager Jonny Lockie (16) grabbed a hat-trick for Spalding United under-18s against Bourne Town Blue last October, he had no idea of what would follow.

Two months later, the Moulton Chapel student would find himself on trial at Premier League leaders Leicester City and attracting interest from Everton and Bournemouth.

But Jonny has his family, friends, team-mates, teachers at South Holland Post 16 Centre, Spalding, and the Tulips coaching staff around him to make sure his feet stay firmly on the ground.

Jonny said: “I was playing for Spalding United’s under-18 side and someone told me that a Leicester City scout was there to see me score a hat-trick.

“You can’t explain how it feels to be told something like that and it made me just want to smash the trial I had at Leicester.”

Jonny started his footballing journey as a goalkeeper for Thorney Colts under-9s before a move to Crowland Town where he was unleashed as a winger.

THICK OF THE ACTION: Jonny Lockie (wearing blue shirt on right) watches as fellow striker Charley Sanders goes close for Spalding United against Romulus at Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.  Photo (TIM WILSON): SG090116-243TW.

THICK OF THE ACTION: Jonny Lockie (wearing blue shirt on right) watches as fellow striker Charley Sanders goes close for Spalding United against Romulus at Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG090116-243TW.

The goals soon followed which earned Jonny a move up the youth football ladder to Pinchbeck United, Holbeach United and the Tulips.

“I was at Crowland Town when I started playing football for Sir John Gleed School and I went to Carrow Road where I played in a little tournament watched by a Norwich City scout,” Jonny said.

“I scored in the game we played and that got me inspired to become a professional footballer.

“After Crowland Town, I went to Pinchbeck United and started scoring goals for the under-16s.

I think I can go all the way and there’s no point in settling for what you’ve got now if you can get something better

Spalding United Reserves and under-18s striker Jonny Lockie

“People said that I drove the team on to win games and from Pinchbeck, I went to Holbeach United and then onto Spalding United at the start of this season.”

Jonny’s scoring record for both Pinchbeck and Holbeach, including a hat-trick on his debut for the Tigers’ under-16s against Stanground Sports in October 2014, made him a prize asset to capture when Spalding decided to set up a new under-18s side.

Speaking last October, Tulips reserve-team manager Kev Nottingham said: “Jonny is an under-18 player who is scoring goals for fun at the moment and has considerable talent and pace to burn as a striker.

“He joined us in the reserve team two or three games into the season and scored on his debut (against Wisbech Town Acorns).

“Jonny has become a regular player for us and he’s learning his way in adult football which he’s found a lot more physical than he has been used to. “But he has ridden the knocks and is now starting to look more confident and comfortable.

“Jonny is a huge part of the reserve-team squad and massive to our plans for promotion this season.”

But Jonny’s scoring prowess for the reserves and under-18s, most notably a hat-trick for Nottingham’s side over Peterborough ICA Sports Reserves in October, catapulted him into the first-team reckoning.

“At the start of this season, I just wanted to get into the reserve team and I became a regular there,” Jonny said.

“Then I wanted to get on the bench for the first team and I did that when we came up against Daventry Town at the end of October.

“It was unbelievable to come on (for 18 minutes as a second-half substitute) because I was put on as a right-sided midfielder.

“It was good to get some minutes on the field for the first team and overwhelming to see my name in the newspaper.”

Reporters and club scouts may have been first alerted to Jonny when he was named in the Tulips squad for their FA Cup third qualifying round tie against West Midlands side Sporting Khalsa in early October.

Justifying his decision, ex-Tulips manager Pat Rayment said: “Jonny is an exceptional talent, skilful, fast-moving and with a natural goalscoring ability.

“He has trained with the first team and never looked out of his depth so I have no hesitation in taking him with us.”

Jonny said: “When you’re warming up on the sidelines, you don’t expect to get called back to go on as a sub.

“It’s then when a lot of thoughts go through your mind like ‘am I going to score and am I going to make a mistake?’

“But when you’re waiting to come on and the other player comes off, all those thoughts go out of your mind.”

A handful of substitute appearances heralded the invitation to try out for Leicester which Jonny “smashed” so well that the Foxes have invited him back for more of the same.

Shortly after the trial came through, the teenager said: “It’s a really good opportunity for me to progress as a player and it’s one of those things you just can’t turn down.”

Bob Don-Duncan, director of football at Spalding with more than 40 years’ worth of managerial experience in the game, said: “The club is very pleased with the progress Jonny is making and hopefully his football won’t suffer as a result of the interest being shown in him.

“For a 16-year-old Jonny shows considerable mental fortitude, his attitude is first class and he trains extremely hard.

“He hasn’t started a first-team game yet, but he’s come on in three or four games where he’s used his pace and strength particularly well.

“Other 16-year-olds would be a little intimidated by playing against physically stronger players, but Jonny doesn’t seem to be intimidated by them and seems to be a very level-headed lad.

“Spalding United certainly wouldn’t like to stand in the lad’s way and we’d like to promote him to go and achieve things in football.

“But with the amount of interest being shown in him, my concern is that he could find himself in a situation where he thinks he’s arrived when he hasn’t.”

Helping Jonny to keep his head, as well as family and friends, is the small matter of a sports course at South Holland Post 16 Centre.

Michael Duggan, one of Jonny’s teachers and goalkeeper at Spalding United, said: “He’s just a nice lad who’s always been interested in sport.

“Jonny used to be a 100m sprinter but it was only around Year 11 when we noticed how quick he was.

“However, Jonny always wanted to play football and in every PE lesson, he would play with his friends – even in the snow.

“Jonny comes from a nice family who are really supportive of him and he’s not let the attention affect him. He’s just taking it in his stride, with both feet on the ground.”

So from standing between the sticks at Thorney Colts under-9s, Jonny is knocking on the door of fulfilling his dreams of becoming a professional footballer.

“I think I can go all the way and there’s no point in settling for what you’ve got now if you can get something better,” Jonny said. “But I need to balance my school work and football at the same time.

“My parents look after me and my girlfriend’s parents know a lot more about football than I do, so they protect me and tell me to be careful in what to say.

“A lot of people have covered my trial with Leicester and a lot of them are saying that I’ll be the next Jamie Vardy. But instead I’d like to be the first Jonny Lockie.”