With composure atypical of a player his age, Harry Nevins (’18) stood out at boys soccer tryouts. His ability was clear for boys varsity soccer coach Akay Mustafa. “He read the game very well, his tactical knowledge was very good and his positional awareness was very good, which is rare for a player of his age,” Mustafa said.
One of many who were impressed, varsity boys soccer co-captain Bjorn Sigurdsson (’15) noticed Nevins early on in tryouts. “He was tall, he was strong, he won everything in the air, he won every 50-50, the challenges he made were amazing,” he said.
Since impressing at tryouts, Nevins has continued his rich vein of form for the boys varsity soccer team. The team has started their season with two wins versus TASIS and ACS Cobham. ASL has kept clean sheets in both of these games, something Nevins, as a defender, takes particular pride in.
Nevins views the start to the season in a wholly positive manner. “Two wins and two clean sheets is a great start … Overall, we’re playing well as a team and enjoying our football at the moment,” he said.
Nevins’ soccer is not limited to Canons Park, though. Playing since he was 4-years-old, the sport has always been an integral part of Nevins’ life. Initially playing casually with friends on weekends, Nevins soon got involved with his local club team, St. John’s Wood Football Club. During a game for St. John’s Wood versus Norwich City Football Club’s academy in February 2013 – Grade 8 for Nevins –, he impressed the Norwich coaches and was invited to train with their team.
Following the conclusion of his spell with Norwich, Nevins again impressed a scout while playing for St. John’s Wood. Only, this time, the scout represented Southampton Football Club. Contingent upon impressing in a trial game, Nevins was invited to train with the Southampton Under-15’s side. Impress he did, and he continues to play for Southampton.
Mustafa attributes Nevins’ tactical knowledge to the high quality coaching he’s receiving at Southampton. This season, Mustafa is implementing a new formation for the team to organise itself in: 3-4-1-2. For a central defender, like Nevins, this system is an adjustment from the more traditional, ubiquitous 4-4-2 or others of that ilk. “We ran through the [3-4-1-2] quite briefly but we kept using it during the tryout period. We had probably one session with it before the TASIS game and he picked it up straight away,” Mustafa said. “He did well in the first game, had a few questions about the system, we answered them, and then in the second game [versus Cobham] he played a faultless game.”
Sigurdsson has also been impressed by Nevins’ adjustment to the new system. “It’s hard to learn a new system so quickly and especially playing left-centre-back as a right footed player, I think it takes some definite hard work and awareness and general football knowledge to switch almost seamlessly, as he has,” he said.
Following his impressive start to the season, Nevins is quick to stress the team’s effort rather than his own, individual success – singling out Mustafa and the captains for praise. “I think it’s down to [Mustafa] who prepares us well and [Sigurdsson] who was recently named captain alongside Dariush [Yazdanpanah (’15)] and I think they’re fitting that spot well,” he said.
Attempting to emulate Chelsea Captain John Terry’s two-footedness, Nevins recognizes the need to improve his weaker left foot.“I feel confident on both feet but I want to get to that next level where I can play 50 yard balls with both feet,” he said.
Further along the line, Nevins harbors aspirations of playing professionally. The next hurdle for him is a player performance review being conducted by Southampton. If his review is successful, he will be offered a schoolboy contract by the club. If Nevins were to earn the contract, he’d be formally tied to Southampton for a period of time determined by the club, thus meaning he’d earn a wage.
As the level he plays at rises, Nevins remains grounded in his future aspirations. “My end goal is to always enjoy football and not treat it as a job … I’ve always found football to be one of the greatest things, so that’s something I want to do with my life. I want to be a professional player.”
“I’m playing four or five times per week and keeping in shape – I think that’s all I can do: Focus on my football and the club I play for will be decided later,” Nevins said.