Harri John has described signing his first professional contract with Haverfordwest County as a “really proud moment”, as he becomes the latest youngster from Pembrokeshire to commit to the club.
The 16-year-old has put pen to paper on a two-year deal with the Bluebirds, which has an option for a third year.
Having joined the first team for pre-season training in recent months, his talent immediately stood out, and has now been rewarded as his exciting footballing journey continues.
Commenting on the news, he said: “It’s still quite surreal. I didn’t think this would happen all of a sudden, but it’s a really proud moment, especially for my parents who have been supporting me throughout my career.”
Players who sign professional deals at such a young age are not usually seen in the first team setup until a couple of years down the line, however John has already been given an opportunity to experience the environment, featuring as a substitute three times in the JD Cymru Premier to date.
“Tony [Pennock] and Waggy (Gary Richards, assistant manager) have been really complimentary, which really boosts me on, so it’s great that they have faith in me to be able to reach that level,” he said.
This rapid rise has seen John go from playing in Division One of the Pembrokeshire Football League to the top echelon of Welsh football within the space of five months.
“The level has been different going from grassroots to training with the first team,” he explained. “I’ve been taking notes off some of the players, and it’s just been great to train at that level and have people like Lucas [Davies] and Dan [James] from the Academy – a good mix of youngsters and experienced players.
“I’m quite friendly with them, especially after pre-season where I got to know them a bit better. So it’s definitely been a big help, having few of them there with me.
“I remember seeing on social media when they signed their contracts, and I thought ‘hopefully one day I can do this too’.”
His footballing journey began at the age of seven, when we played locally at grassroots level for Camrose, before gaining experience elsewhere as he continued his junior football journey.
“I was there for around four years, I think, and then I moved on to Prendergast Villa. Then my manager got offered to go to Goodwick, but he was only going to go if the rest of us came from Prendergast. So it was pretty much like playing for Villa, but with a different badge and pitch.
“It was great. Knowing the players that came to Goodwick, we already had that connection, we’d been playing together for a while. I think it really clicked when we went there and we got a few new players from different teams that were good mates with us. I think it was great there, and especially having my manager Chris [Morris], who knew us really well, I think that really made it click.”
John has already experienced winning silverware at the home of Haverfordwest County, as he played a key part in Goodwick United’s 10-0 win over Hakin United in the final of the Pembrokeshire Junior Football League Under-16 Cup final at the Ogi Bridge Meadow in April. He played the full 90 minutes, and even managed to get on the scoresheet.
“It was quite debatable whether I scored really,” he laughed. “It was a bit of a goalmouth scramble, but I put it down as mine.
“It was a perfect send-off, just a great day. We were really up for that game, and I think it showed in the score line that we wanted to go out on a high, especially because some of us were moving to different clubs.”
Given the variety of clubs he has played for since starting his football career, the youngster has worked under many different coaches, and wanted to thank those who have helped his development over the years.
“I’ve had a few good ones at county, such as Ben Evans last year,” he began. “That was a nice year, we finished it quite well. I think we had Jamie at county under-14, he was really a joy to play under because it really clicked at the start of the year and we were doing well. It was just a really good feeling.
“And then also at Cardiff development I had a coach called Andy, and he really helped me a lot. He really focused on pushing me and getting the best out of me, and he really helped me a lot in my career between the ages of 13 and 14.”
Haverfordwest County supporters can look forward to seeing the talented youngster at the Ogi Bridge Meadow over the coming years, and the midfielder has provided a glimpse into what fans can expect to see.
“I think my strength is my technical ability, really, I quite like having the ball to feet. I’m not particularly the fastest, so I like to do everything with the ball near me.
“I like to distribute it a bit more as well, I think it’s just a really, really nice way of playing the game, because when I can bring my teammates into the game, who can really help our team – because we’ve got some really good players – they’ll make it work for us.”
John has already outlined how he has been able to settle into the group since starting to train with the first team, and this process was made easier when he was given the nickname of ‘Messi’ in his first session.
“It was Jordan Davies who gave it to me,” he explained. “I think I nutmegged one of the boys, and he just called me Messi from there.
“It was quite funny. When he first said it, I didn’t know if he was talking to me or not. Maybe it’s to do with my height as well – I’m not the tallest and neither is Messi.”
While his ultimate aim is to secure a place in the first team, he recognises that there is plenty of hard work to be done to ensure he reaches that level, as he sets out his aims for the rest of the season.
“Obviously I’d love to play a few minutes for the first team, but I think I’ve got a bit of work to do if I want to get there because I’m nowhere near being the full package yet.
“With the Development team, I’m hoping for a good season and a good cup run because I’ve grown up with a lot of the boys that are now playing there from my age, so I’d love to do well for them as well.”