Belfast Telegraph

Rising Glentoran star Jordan Stewart felt the punches but will hit back

By Graham Luney

Jordan Stewart is Glentoran's baby-faced assassin but sometimes assassins get wounded. Stewart is no longer one of Eddie Patterson's teenage sensations - he turned 20 at the end of March - but with his small stature and youthful looks he wouldn't seem out of place having a kickabout with ball-boys at The Oval.

But this boy is growing up quickly on the Irish League stage and this season in particular could well be the making of the man.

Stewart has been stung by trial experiences at Stoke City and Middlesbrough.

He now says he wasn't mentally or physically prepared for them and his confidence took a knock.

But ahead of Saturday's Irish Cup final when Portadown arrive in east-Belfast, it was refreshing to hear the winger reflect on his disappointing trial adventures as important lessons.

When I spoke to him I didn't detect a shred of arrogance. He came across as a humble young lad who was willing to take the punches and fight back stronger.

"I was disappointed with myself and there was nothing I could take out of them (the trials)," Stewart admitted.

"I went to Peterborough before and it was a very good experience and I enjoyed that. It was a very good level and I was with the first team but when I went to Middlesbrough and Stoke I found the level a few steps higher and I didn't really prepare myself properly.

"I think that affected me and I couldn't really cope with the experience. It wasn't the clubs, it was me and I didn't cope well with it. I didn't prepare well enough or know what to expect.

"Looking back on it now I do regret it because I've always wanted to play football at a higher level. Football is my life and you don't want to be throwing away opportunities. I should have taken them but there is no point in dwelling on it, it's over.

"Training two nights a week isn't enough to reach that standard. It was a complete culture shock and although it hasn't put me off going on trials, if anyone came to me now and said 'I want you to come with us' I'd say no as I'd rather be in the right mindset.

"I need to be in the right physical shape to give myself the best opportunity to succeed across the water and going again now would be the same story. I'd make damn sure I'm ready for it if there is a next time. You need to be as clubs in England or Scotland are looking for better players than what they have.

"To a certain extent my confidence was dented but it was vital for me to experience that and it will make me stronger for the future. I'll get myself in better shape and ready to go again in pre-season.

"I still believe and I won't give up on my full-time dream but I have to stay realistic and I am happy to play here and play in the Irish League. You can have a good career in the Irish League and there is nothing wrong with that."

I've heard whispers that Stewart is a confident kid and there's nothing wrong with that - players need to believe in themselves - but he also came across as someone who can be harsh on himself.

Despite scoring 16 goals this season, he feels he should be contributing a lot more. Again, it was refreshing to hear someone admit they strive towards greater rewards.

"I look back on the season with a bit of disappointment - I think I could have done better," he adds.

"My game should be about scoring goals and I feel I should be doing better. Whatever the reason I cannot explain, but I expect more from myself."

Stewart was among the Glentoran fans at Windsor Park when the class of 2013 rocked Cliftonville. Now he wants his first Irish Cup winner's medal.

"I can't wait for it," he says. "It's going to be a big occasion and being at The Oval makes it even more special. The boys who have been there before have been sharing their memories but it would be nice to get your own medal and say something back to them!"

In March, Stewart signed a contract that will keep him at Glentoran until the end of the 2017-2018 season. It's no surprise that he's remaining loyal to the club that has not only given him a stage to perform on but is also giving him the best possible chance to live his full-time dream.

"The financial constraints facing the club has opened the door to young players and I signed a new deal here because I was given the opportunity," he added.

"I felt I owed them something and obviously everyone around the club, especially the fans, are quality. I don't want to be anywhere else and the young players feel that way. We are pulling in the same direction. The club have been more than helpful.

"It's been great for me to play under people like Eddie (Patterson), Tiernan and Seamus (Lynch) and they are more than helpful. They always point out things that can improve your game. I'm happy to develop my game here and the future's looking well."

On Saturday's clash, Stewart simply adds: "If you can't get up for a cup final you shouldn't be playing."

The boy talks as well as he plays.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph