AFC Bournemouth star, Junior Stanislas: “I’ve built up a bond with God”

Ollie Baines spoke with Bournemouth star, Junior Stanislas to discuss the strikers career and also what motivates him to play the beautiful game. 

So Junior, I guess being picked up by West Ham at such a young age was a dream come true for you wasn’t it? 

Yeah massively. I was playing Sunday League stuff when I was younger, just enjoying the run around as you do when you’re a kid. I remember playing in a game and there were scouts who saw me and obviously I did well enough to get the call for me to come into training with West Ham. From there, I just really enjoyed it and kept working hard in training. It was great to get picked up as a youngster.

How tough is it to stay in and graduate through an academy?

It is tough, there’s various different age groups and a number of players so it is hard. You see some of your friends and people you play with let go and you’ve just got to make sure you work hard and get your chance with the first team. I am very thankful that I got that opportunity.

Before you broke into the first team with West Ham, tell us what you learned from your loan move?

Yeah I moved before I made the first team at West Ham to bridge the gap I suppose between reserve football and first team football. I was on-loan at Southend for about 6 weeks and I was playing with grown men, in-front of crowds at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.

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I managed to score a few goals and I really enjoyed my time out there it was a good learning experience for me. I went back to West Ham and started training with the first team and after few weeks I managed to make my debut.

What was it like making your debut for West Ham?

Very surreal! I was buzzing. I remember just warming up on the sideline and then getting the call from the management to go on, I thought it was a joke!

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I wasn’t sure it was really happening and before I knew it, I was on the pitch and at that point I had to just focus on the game ahead.

Fast forward a few years and you had moved on from West Ham and joined Burnley, how important was that move for your development as a footballer?

That was very important, not only on the pitch but off it too. At that time I think I signed on the Thursday or the Friday and I then had my two little boys on the Saturday and I then had to travel back up north as well. It was a growing up period for me, something that I would never take back. On the pitch I was playing more regularly and then off it I had the challenge of stepping into fatherhood for the first time, so it was a good 3 years for me.

Why the move to Bournemouth?

A number of reasons really, obviously the manager played a big pat, he was the one who signed me at Burnley and now at Bournemouth. He’s been huge for me. When Eddie Howe left Burnley we had a new manager and I wasn’t playing as regularly as I would have liked so once I got the opportunity to come here, it was something I couldn’t say no to.

Where can you realistically get with Bournemouth?

Obviously we’ve had a very good season so far and we’ve built a lot over the last few years. The manager has instilled in us a belief that we can stay in this league and push on from here.

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We work very hard daily at the training ground and we just need to kick on from where we are now.

What are your personal aspirations Junior?

Probably to just stay in the team when I’m fit and help contribute to the team with goals and assists for as long as I can.

Best player you’ve ever played with?

It’s not an easy one! I will go with Scott Parker when he was at West Ham. At the time I think we had a couple of unbelievable seasons there and then he got his move to Spurs from that.

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He was the driving force in everything, his role on the pitch, the way he captained the team, everything about him was first class.

Favourite stadium you’ve been able to play in?

Old Trafford. It’s just the atmosphere, the fans in the stadium when you walk out and the history behind it is just fantastic.

Switching focus slightly, tell us how you came to know Jesus?

That was through my mum, growing up she was a very strong Christian. I went to a Catholic school when I was young, so growing up I would hear lots of things and then I’d go home and my mum would teach me stuff from the bible too. I went to church a lot when I was younger and so I’ve built up a bond with God and it’s grown from there really.

As a footballer do you get a chance to get stuck into church?

I do, but not as much as I’d like. I probably should go more to be honest. You can put excuses in the way but I just don’t seem to go as much as before. At the club we have a chaplain that comes into the club who works at the local church. He comes in and takes prayer groups and does bible studies sometimes, but I think I should definitely go more than I do now.

What other players at Bournemouth do you catch up with about your faith?

There’s a few guys at the club. Benik Afobe, Max Gradel and Marc Pugh are all strong Christian guys and sometimes we hang out and have a chat about our faith and bible studies.

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As I say we have the chaplain who comes and talks to us as small group which is cool.

How much does your faith mean to you as a person as well as a footballer?

It means a lot, personally. Every morning I wake up, I pray. Obviously, I still do bad things as everyone does but I like to give it all to God. When I go out on the pitch, I make the sign of the cross and point to the skies when I score a goal.

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My faith means a lot to me and it’s helped me through the good and bad.

Do you see football as a form of worship?

Probably not as a form of worship, more of a way of making other people more aware of my faith. Like I said, if I score, I go down on my knees and point to the skies. I don’t do it for show, I do it so people might think ‘oh, why is he doing that?’ and maybe people will ask questions about it. I try to use it to help open other peoples eyes.

And finally Junior, do you see your footballing talent as a gift from God?

Yes, without a doubt. I would say so. I feel very blessed to have this gift. Where I grew up in London, my family were very restricted to opportunities and I feel very thankful to have this gift and be in a more privileged position.

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