Ollie Baines managed to speak with Hartlepool United starlet, Ebby Nelson-Addy on his route into football and who he gives the glory to.
Ebby, what was it like being snapped up by Aston Villa at such a young age?
“My Dad used to take me to football locally and I must have been playing at a tournament and they had scouts coming to watch. From then, I had a one day trial at the club and I was signed by them at the age of around 7 or 8 and it was just a whirlwind at that time. I was from Milton Keynes at the time and the trial was in Birmingham so I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it initially, but I got the support from my family and I had another friend from where I lived who got scouted as well so it all worked out.”
Who were some of the players you were playing with when you were at Villa?
“There’s loads! Fabian Delph, Gabby Agbonlahor, James Milner, Ashley Young, Stuart Downing, Emile Heskey, John Carew and Gareth Barry.
Training with these guys and sometimes play in reserve team games alongside them was just unbelievable.”
It must have been hard to take the news when Villa said they won’t be offering you a new contract, how did you deal with that?
“It was hard. I had been at the club since I was 8 and I was 19 at the time they let me go and that was all I knew. I had grown up through the club so it was hard. I was facing some off the field distractions at the time but that’s the thing with having faith, you’re going to have ups and downs and it’s about how you deal with them. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to that level one day.”
You went onto play for Brackley Town and Worcester City, how were those times for you?
“At first it was very difficult because going from Aston Villa where you trained every day and became accustomed to those facilities, to now playing at Worcester, it takes time to get used to that. I was now training with older guys who had full-time jobs, so the intensity was never quite there. It was really about keeping myself right, keeping myself focused. There’s sometimes when you think that your chance has gone, but when you believe in God you always know that God can change your situation and give you a chance, that’s the beauty of Christianity. There’s been some days when I think, ‘wow, I’ve dedicated my whole life to God and this is really it’, but when I look at the bible, I read stories of how God used one moment in peoples lives to change their future forever.”
You’ve recently signed for Hartlepool, what’s it like playing in League Two?
“I love training everyday. I’m finding different challenges in the team, like I’m not always playing the amount of games that I’d like, but I know that I’ll be given the opportunity sooner or later. The lower leagues are similar because the manager puts so much faith in you as there are players mortgages on the line for most of these guys and it’s a huge thing. It’s a tough league but one that I am enjoying.”
What would you say are your biggest assets as a player?
“I’ve got a lot of energy, I love running with the ball and playing quick one-two’s and getting forward.”
You’re still young at 23, what are your career aspirations?
“Well, obviously I want to play at the highest level possible. What route that takes, I’m not quite sure, that’s in God’s hands but I train hard everyday.
I have aspirations on reaching the highest level there is. I don’t want to limit what God can do. Look at Jamie Vardy at what he has done at Leicester, it’s a real encouragement for us as players.”
Ebby, tell us how you became a Christian, where did that journey start for you?
“I always went to a Catholic school and a Catholic church when I was younger, but I’d say that I never really knew who God was at the time. Then, when I was 12, my father passed away, he was watching me play football at the time and he died on the side of the pitch. That was really tough to take. My Mum then got really involved in a new church and she brought us along about 2 or 3 years later after my Dad had died. This church was really open and I felt far more at home than I did at the Catholic churches I had been to when I was younger. From then I just started to get more involved with the church. I read my bible everyday and I just love being a Christian because of what God has done for me and also the lessons that he teaches us everyday.”
On your Twitter page you have the verse, Jeremiah 29:11, tell us what that means to you?
“Well, I had just been released from Aston Villa and I was feeling pretty low. I remember, I was at my friends wedding and some random guy came up to me and said, ‘Jeremiah 29:11, remember that verse’. I went home and read it and it just blew me away. It reminded me that God has a plan for my life, no matter if I go forwards or backwards, God still has a plan for my life.”
How much does your faith impact your football career?
“A lot, I would say that if I wasn’t a Christian, I would have quit football after I was released by Aston Villa. People think that if you’re a Christian, you’re life is going to be really smooth, but the reality is, is that we go through hard times as much as other people. We don’t have all the answers, we don’t know everything, but having faith gives us that hope and purpose. You know, if its God’s plan that I don’t make it as a professional footballer, I am OK with that because I know that he will give me other gifts to bring to the world.”
Do you have any other Christian players you meet with?
“I have a cousin who plays at Worcester, he’s a devout Christian and one of the big reasons why I ended up playing for them.
There’s also Rakish Bingham and Kudus Oyenuga, these guys are Christians at Hartlepool. Before games we stay together and pray together and that’s awesome. A lot of other players talk about our faith and ask questions which is great, so it’s encouraging.”
Do you see your footballing ability as a gift from God?
“Definitely, every talent we have is God given and I am so grateful for this gift that God gave me.”
What advice would you give to aspiring Christian footballers?
“I would say, never give up. As a footballer, you’re going to get a lot of attention, but keep your eyes focused on God. You can think you’ve made it before you actually have, so keep focused on God and never let him go if you get there, because it’s easy to ask God for thing when times are hard and it’s easy to forget him with things are going well. Be an example and be a shining light, that’s what I am trying to do to this day.”