The news of Anthony Cheshire’s first professional contract will be the first time many Swindon fans have heard the young defender’s name.
However, as it is for all new pros, the first senior terms offered are the result of many years of hard work and sacrifice. Cheshire, and his fellow 2019/20 academy graduates, Toby Holland and Massimo Giamattei, are no different.
Hailing from Reading, Cheshire has travelled to Swindon, with the aid of his family, since the age of 14 – miles and miles travelled, hours sacrificed, all towards the goal of getting to this point.
Those rewards may well be delayed as the global pandemic has put a pause on the end of the 2019/20 season and, most probably, the beginning of the next campaign but that won’t damped the spirits of the club’s newest pros – and nor should it!
Cheshire, a versatile, tenacious and smooth centre-half, has made the grade at Swindon after a hugely succesful campaign at the heart of the Under-18s' defence. swindontownfc.co.uk spoke to ‘Chesh’ to discuss his football story so far.
Congratulations on your deal, Anthony – it’s a great achievement. How did you first get involved with the Swindon academy?
I’d been playing Sunday league football my whole life up until I was 14 - that was in 2016. I’m from Reading so had been playing in and around that area. I had trials previously but hadn’t been successful but at the time, my coach knew a Swindon coach so he got me and couple of team-mates in on trial. I was signed after three weeks and I’ve been here ever since.
Who were the ones who really supported you during those early years with the academy?
The first two people would have to be my parents taking me to and from training – without them I wouldn’t be in this position. They had to sacrifice their time – leaving work early and stuff to get me going in football. I can’t single out any Swindon coaches just because everyone I’ve worked with has been brilliant and they’ve all helped me develop my game.
There’s actually one of my Sunday League coaches that has been there for me since I was six – Jim Telford and he’s been a real inspiration to me and I really appreciate everything he’s done for me. Stand-out guy.
How were those first few months in a professional set-up?
When I joined, it was obvious what their philosophy was – I could tell the way they wanted to play, from the back, building attacks. A couple of weeks after I joined, I had the opportunity to play in the Milk Cup in Ireland in front of loads of fans. I really enjoyed that. We had tours of Holland where we played really notable teams like Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.
Everyone wants to be at the level of those top academies – playing against them gives you the first-hand experience of competing against them which is huge. Even before getting to 18, it’s a lot of great experiences.
How did the academy experience change once you got to scholar age?
The first full-time experience of football is when you’re a scholar – in the lower age groups, you train in the evenings and play on the Saturday whereas when you step up to the under-18s you’re training every day with competitive league matches on a Saturday and the Youth Cup.
You get to know the academy graduates and seeing them feature in the first-team is inspiring for you, the people following them. It was really good to see people like Joe Romanski, Twiney (Scott Twine), Sol Pryce being put in the first-team at that time.
Your final year as a scholar was cut short but you had a fantastic period midway through the season didn’t you?
At the start of the season, there wasn’t that cohesion. Dave (Farrell) switched the formation and that catered for a lot of our players because people had been playing out of position before. When we switched to a three, there was a real difference and that’s thanks to Dave. From there, we really kicked on and that gave the whole group so much confidence.
And you, Massimo and Toby were all involved in various ways with the first-teamers in the Wiltshire Premier Shield and Leasing.com Trophy? How was that?
You learn a lot from those experiences. The main thing that sets professionals apart is their mindset – they’re always wanting not just the best for themselves, but the best from those around them.
Being a young player, it’s not the same as being in the under-18s because you’re comfortable in that environment. When you step up you’re really under pressure to perform. My first experience was the Wiltshire Cup game against Westbury and it was really valuable.
How much are you looking forward to getting started?
I just want to get back as soon as possible. I’m here biting my nails waiting to get back to playing and starting with the team.