Tag Archives: Sunderland

ryan ellison

Ellison seeks Cup of good cheer at Hyde

It’s pretty safe to say that Ryan Ellison may not make his FA Cup debut in the way he dreamt about as a football-mad young boy growing up in Stockport.

In an ideal world, it would be for boyhood club Manchester City, having risen through the ranks and been given his chance to impress by manager Pep Guardiola.

Instead, the 20-year-old full-back is hoping to have shaken off a hamstring injury and turn out for Evo-Stik North outfit Hyde United as they host MK Dons in the first round.

‘’The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable,” he told me ahead of Friday game. “It’s a 3,500 sell-out – we usually only average 300-400 a game. Those few hundred always make themselves heard, so it’s going to be incredibly raucous with 3,000-plus!”

Released

If selected, Ellison will – of course – be giving his all to help the Tigers reach the second round, but he freely admits that he never expected to be plying his trade in English football’s eighth tier.Hyde United FC crest

“I started at Manchester City aged 13, and I enjoyed it there,’’ he recalls. “It was a huge change to go into a properly competitive environment where the players have the same aim to be a professional.

“Unfortunately, when it came to a getting scholarship, they had a right-back in that year called Cameron Humphreys who they thought had a better chance than me, and they thought it best for me to go to another club.”

Despite the disappointment of being released, the chance of becoming a professional was still a distinct possibility as Sunderland snapped him up after impressing on trial.

“They were the first team I went on trial with, and they wanted me to sign a two-year scholarship,’’ he explains. ‘’I thoroughly enjoyed it there – and if I’m being honest the players were far more welcoming than at the Etihad.’’

However, his dream of ‘making it’ began to fade. “I ended up leaving because the club didn’t see a path into the first team for me,’’ he says reflects with a hint of sadness.

Part-time

Ellison wasn’t prepared to give up hope, though, and had further trials at Oldham, Sheffield United and various teams in Scotland.

‘The best-case scenario is that I can be a full-time player again as it will always be the thing I most enjoy’

“I still wanted to be a full-time professional and earn a contract somewhere, but bad luck just seemed to come my way.” he said.

“Sheffield United didn’t have a place in the team for me and were just wasting my time. At Oldham, the gaffer wanted to sign me, but on the day I went to put pen to paper he left due to a disagreement with the chairman.”

So he looked down the leagues and signed for Hyde in 2015, but the flames of his pro ambitions are still flickering.

Given a chance

“It’s obviously a part-time club, where we only train twice a week and have a game at the weekend – so straight away it was hard to maintain the same level of fitness.

“But I actually believe that, given a chance at bigger clubs, some non-league players could make it.

“I don’t know exactly what my future holds – I have to be in check with reality as my chance of becoming an elite pro is so slim. I’m lucky to have a full-time job at the moment in construction and civil engineering.

“But that doesn’t mean I’m not putting all my effort into being the best footballer I can be. The best-case scenario is that I can be a full-time player again as it will always be the thing I most enjoy.”

Unbeaten

Hyde have endured a tough spell in recent years, including three relegations in four seasons, with crowds dwindling by 50% and only around £500 in the bank at one point.

‘It’s one of the biggest matches I might ever play in my career and it’s a great opportunity for myself and the club’

But former Oldham and Halifax boss Darren Kelly was appointed as manager in May 2016 and has overseen a swing in the club’s fortunes.

The Ewen Fields side are unbeaten in 20 league games and have already seen off Congleton Town, Kendal Town, Warrington Town, Boston Town and Scarborough Athletic en route to the FA Cup first round proper, scoring 13 goals along the way since entering the competition in August.

As Ellison explains, he cannot wait for Friday night: “I believe the Hyde fans are the best in non-league. The club has had a few hard years, but it’s on the up and the whole club is incredibly friendly and welcoming.

“The fans are unbelievable – most of them volunteer to clean the ground or do other jobs such as working behind the bar or in the club shop, for free. Not to mention how incredible the away support always is. The club spirit is the best I’ve ever seen.’”

‘Great opportunity’

The Tigers have earned £29,425 from their FA Cup run so far and are expected to receive a further £100,000 from TV revenue, gate receipts and sponsorship for the televised clash against MK Dons.

For Ellison, it’s a chance to put his recent injury problems behind him and test himself once more on the big stage.

“I’m hopefully going to get on the pitch at some point. It’s one of the biggest matches I might ever play in my career and it’s a great opportunity for myself and the club.

“It would great to get a replay at their stadium, as it would be a fantastic experience being able to play at a larger ground.

“It’s such a special competition. The atmosphere is always so tense and exciting. As everyone knows, anything can happen in football, so everyone has hope.”

Ryan Ellison is on Twitter @ryanellison2. Follow Hyde United @hydeunited. Ryan Ellison photo courtesy of Hyde United FC.

Connor Wickham – nearly man or more to come?

Sometimes you have to really focus on a player during a match to gauge the progress they’re making – or lack of it.

That’s partly why I was at Selhurst Park on a minus-temperature Monday night to keep a close eye on Connor Wickham as he came up against former club Sunderland.

After an injury-hit start, the 22-year-old forward now looks to be enjoying life at Crystal Palace after a summer move from the Stadium of Light.

The Premier League clash with the Black Cats was only his fifth appearance for Palace, and it’s clear he’s being asked to play a bigger role by Alan Pardew.

The Palace boss clearly sees potential in Wickham as the spearhead in a well-balanced side – one with pace on the wings and guile in midfield.

He looked like a man playing with confidence, knowing that he has the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha supplying him, as well as French international Yohan Cabaye.

Unproven

Sunderland paid an initial fee of £8m to land Wickham from Ipswich in June 2011, but his development was hampered as he found himself behind the more experienced Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon in the pecking order.

The Wearsiders’ annual struggle to avoid relegation didn’t help – a club in desperate need of points isn’t going to turn to a 20 year old unproven at the highest level for goals.

“Wickham’s energy was a key element as Palace tried to open things up”

He still managed to make 74 appearances for Sunderland, but Palace’s £7m offer (reportedly rising to £9m with adds-ons) was deemed too good to refuse.

With Sunderland playing five at the back to negate Palace’s attacking threat, Wickham’s time on the ball was short and sweet.

His one-touch link up play became his main asset rather than his ability to get behind defensive lines. It was clear Palace’s plan was to get the ball out wide to stretch Sunderland and create space for Wickham in the middle.

For a man of 6”3, his pace does not go unnoticed. This was one of the main reasons Sunderland and Ipswich used to play him on the wing, as he can also beat men and pull teams out of shape.

Wickham’s work rate was impressive. Although not seeing much of the ball, his energy was a key element as Palace tried to open things up, although on the night their cutting edge was lacking.

Sidelined

Being clinical in a game of half-chances is what separates good sides from the best. Palace failed to take theirs and then shot themselves in the foot late on as Jermain Defoe nipped in to capitalise on a mistake by Scott Dan and sneak the winner.

“An injury-free run of games will surely allow Wickham to find his feet again”

Pardew admitted afterwards that his team lacked composure in the final third. “Our crossing and final pass let us down. It was a simplistic game [Sunderland] played but they did it well,” he told BBC Sport.

Wickham made way for Marouane Chamakh in the 76th minute and got a warm response from the home fans who were also happy to see the fit-again Chamakh returning to action.

Wickham posed enough of a threat to keep his place in the starting XI, bearing in mind this was his first start since Palace defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after which he was sidelined with a calf problem.

An injury-free run of games will surely allow him to find his feet again, however goals will have to return to the Englishman’s game as he’ll have Chamakh and Dwight Gayle waiting in the wings for any bad form.

Once touted as the next big thing after his sublime performances for Ipswich in the Championship, his emergence as an England international has since stalled. Wickham will hope now, at Palace, he’s given the chance to prove he has the ability be among the top strikers in the Premier League.