There are people who want Holbeach United to win the UCL Premier League title for no other reason than to see Jordan Keeble with a championship winner’s medal.
The 16-year-old University Academy Holbeach student has been on the rader of Tigers’ fans long before he made his first team debut at home against Newport Pagnell Town in February 2014.
That day, along with practically every other highlight of Keeble’s young sporting life, is chronicled in a collection of scrapbooks faithfully kept by his mum Lisa.
Keeble said: “I was warming up to make my first team debut and as I looked across the pitch, I saw my grandad near the manager’s dugout.
“Then I got a call from the manager, then Glen Maddison, who said ‘get your shin pads on.’
“The blood was rushing through my body and it seemed as if the ball would never go out of play.
“Then the board went up and the cheers lasted forever as I came on.”
Long before his debut, it can be argued that Keeble - more than any other South Holland starlet of recent years - was born to play football.
From playing Penalty Shootout in the garden of his mum’s Holbeach home as a five-year-old, using empty milk bottles as goalposts.
Keeble said: “All I ever wanted to do was play football and I was happy if I had a ball at my feet. I remember just drilling the ball into the back of the net in the garden at home and I never stopped.”
Raised a Chelsea fan, Keeble got to meet some of his heroes when he was handed the thrill of a lifetime as a child - being a mascot at his team’s FA Cup third-round tie against Norwich City at Stamford Bridge in January 2002.
But not just any Chelsea FA Cup tie, the historic 4-0 win famous for THAT goal by Gianfranco Zola, flicking a corner kick through his legs and into the Norwich net.
Keeble said: “It was the late John King who had organised it and I remember my mum keeping the letter inviting me to be a mascot until the day of the game.
“For a five-year-old, to get something through the post was a big thing and I remember a limousine pulling up outside our house to take me to Chelsea.
“It’s my first memory of football and I was given the match ball after the game, as well as getting to meet Zola and another of my favourite players Eidur Gudjohnsen.”
Keeble progressed in football by playing for Fleet Wood Lane Primary School, Fleet, Boston United’s academy and finally ending up at Nottingham Forest’s academy.
“I trained on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday mornings, before playing games on Sundays and that was the real thing to me,” Keeble said.
“It opened my eyes to what being a footballer was about because I was training hard, getting fit and learning new skills.
“When I got released from the Forest academy, it didn’t knock me back but made me try harder at the same level.”
At this time, perhaps the most influential figure in Keeble’s life (apart from his mum and younger brother Jack (15) was Phil Barnes, chairman of Holbeach United’s youth set-up and new Community Sports Academy.
He coached Keeble from the Tigers’ under-sevens right through to the under-14s team. “Phil was the first person who saw something in me and I look on him as my dad,” Keeble said.
“I remember scoring nine goals in one game for the under-14s and then another nine in another game, but on the same weekend.
“I was made captain of the youth side by Phil and I did it for about five years, probably because I’ve always been a motivator and the respect I’m given, I always give it back.”
After years of chasing the autographs of Holbeach United favourites such as Matty Warfield, Jamie Stevens and Omar Diouf, Keeble got his chance with Glen Maddison.
“When I made my debut for Holbeach, I remember trying to lob the Newport Pagnell keeper from 25 yards out,” Keeble said. “I thought it was going in, but the keeper got back in time and flicked the ball round the post.
“After the game, the keeper said ‘you’ve got a future’ and I thought ‘is this actually real?’
When Keeble isn’t in action for Holbeach United, he can be found taking wickets and hitting boundaries for Long Sutton 2nd cricket team in Rutland League division three.
“I do enjoy my cricket and once, I was playing in a match for Lincolnshire against Yorkshire where I took four wickets.
“We were chasing a target of 270-plus and the openers got a fair few runs.
“But then we had a batting collapse and I came in at number five.
“I had a few dot balls and then hit three sixes on the trot, with one of them going through a window and landing in the dressing room.
“Fitness-wise, cricket is good because the sports overlap and it makes the football pre-season not as difficult.”
Outside football and cricket, Keeble has also been known to play rugby union and can also be of use on an athletics track, breaking University Academy Holbeach’s 15-year-old 200 metres record in 2012.
But given the choice, it will always be football and Holbeach United for Keeble.
“I’ve always said that if I ever went elsewhere to play football, I’d always want to end my career at Holbeach so I could give something back to the fans,” Keeble said.
“I’d love to play in an FA Cup first round tie for Holbeach because it would be a real big thing for the club and I’d love the buzz that goes with the FA Cup. I’m the sort of person who never gives up and especially because I have a cousin who is disabled and he has never been able to play sport.
“I think about him and how he woud do anything to be on the same pitch as me.”