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Jake Corbett: How a former Linfield captain convinced me to stay patient at Blues and reject Glenavon approach

 

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Rising star: Jake Corbett after netting for the Swifts

Rising star: Jake Corbett after netting for the Swifts

Jake Corbett collects the Harry Cavan Youth Cup as captain of Linfield Rangers last year.

Jake Corbett collects the Harry Cavan Youth Cup as captain of Linfield Rangers last year.

Philip Magowan

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Rising star: Jake Corbett after netting for the Swifts

Linfield's newest professional player is still waiting, but he's doing so patiently thanks to the advice of a former club captain.

Jake Corbett signed his first senior deal with the Blues last week, a two-year contract as reward for a couple of eye-catching seasons with David Dorrian's reserve team, Linfield Swifts.

The 18-year-old has earned it without gaining so much as a minute of competitive action for the first team.

Corbett first hit the headlines almost two years ago when he scooped both the Bertie Peacock Award for the best county player at the SuperCupNI and the Premier Player of the Tournament, following in the footsteps of the likes of Keith Gillespie and Nick Barmby.

Speaking then, the midfielder admitted that his immediate aim was to play senior football with "an Irish League first team somewhere".

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County Down's Jake Corbett collects the SuperCupNI Premier Section Player of the Tournament award.

County Down's Jake Corbett collects the SuperCupNI Premier Section Player of the Tournament award.

County Down's Jake Corbett collects the SuperCupNI Premier Section Player of the Tournament award.

 

With the wealth of talent available to the table-topping Blues, not to mention the club's 'golden generation' coming through the ranks, there is perhaps no place more difficult to get a break than in south Belfast.

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There would have been quicker routes for the Dromore man - the likes of Glenavon were sniffing around, and after Bobby Burns and Mark Sykes departed Mourneview Park, while Robbie Norton suffered a long-term injury, an opening in central midfield may well have presented itself.

But Corbett has revealed that the counsel of a former Linfield skipper ensured he stuck it out at Windsor Park rather than look for a shortcut elsewhere.

"There were a few teams that wanted me," he admitted, speaking now with noticeable maturity and a clearer grasp of his plans.

"I talked to a few people like Michael Gault, who teaches in our tech. He told me just to be patient and that if I stayed at Linfield I would be treated right, treated well and would get what I deserved.

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Jake Corbett collects the Harry Cavan Youth Cup as captain of Linfield Rangers last year.

Jake Corbett collects the Harry Cavan Youth Cup as captain of Linfield Rangers last year.

Philip Magowan

Jake Corbett collects the Harry Cavan Youth Cup as captain of Linfield Rangers last year.

 

"I spoke to my dad too and he told me I was at the best club with the best facilities and the best people. He told me to embrace that and to remember I'll probably only have that chance once.

"The decision was my own and I was humming and ha-ing but after that I knew I was going to stay and now I've got that contract."

Corbett earned it by scoring around 25 goals for the Swifts this season, adding to the 16 he bagged the year before.

"A lot has changed in those two years since that SuperCupNI," he said.

"I'm training a lot more and developing more physically and mentally. Last season I had a good season with Linfield and that summer won the Centenary Shield with Northern Ireland Schoolboys, which got me into a lot of people's heads.

"After that, I had a great season with Linfield and obviously got the two goals in the Steel & Sons Cup final on Christmas Day. Big performances in those big games ensure people are talking about you and notice you."

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Corbett heads in the opening goal of the Steel and Sons Cup final against Newington.

Corbett heads in the opening goal of the Steel and Sons Cup final against Newington.

Stephen Hamilton

Corbett heads in the opening goal of the Steel and Sons Cup final against Newington.

 

It's all about being seen by the right people at the right time. Fortunately, it wasn't difficult to get Linfield manager David Healy's attention.

"He's been at every game I've played for the reserves," said Corbett. "He first spoke to me about a contract at the start of the season when I went to Marbella with the first team.

"He told me when he offered me the contract that he wouldn't be giving me it just for the sake of it. He said that I've earned it and told me to push on."

The next step is to get onto the pitch for the senior side, going one better than the two appearances he made on the bench last term.

"I'm sure I'll not be in the squad from the start of next season but hopefully by this time next year it's a different story and I can take an opportunity to get in there," he said.

"It will be hard but I like these challenges because they help you to step up and improve."

If and when it happens, it will mark another success for the work of Swifts boss Dorrian.

"He has had a real impact on all of us, I know personally what he's done for me and I can see it in others too," said Corbett of the former Glenavon and Ballymena United coach. "He believes in young talent. I could name four or five youth ones that have come up to the reserve team in recent months and it's all about David and his staff and how they put the belief in young players."

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In action against Germany for Northern Ireland Under 19s.

In action against Germany for Northern Ireland Under 19s.

In action against Germany for Northern Ireland Under 19s.

 

The hope at Windsor Park is that another star is on his way.

And now Corbett knows the destination in mind; winning trophies and, significantly, doing it with Linfield.


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