Report by Bradley Rice.
Former Solihull United star Levi Andoh has made the jump to League One side Ipswich Town look easy after scoring in his first two games for the club’s under-23s.
Andoh starred for Solihull in Midland Football League Division Two during the first half of the season but was snapped up on an 18-month deal by the Tractor Boys in January.
Signed as a defender it is at the other end where the 19-year-old is impressing and Andoh is loving life in Norfolk, having registered in victories over Charlton and Norwich City.
“It’s going really well, and I feel like I am improving every day,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to score two in two but it’s always nice to contribute to the team.
“I am happy to show that although I am a defender, I also have the ability to score goals.
“It’s a big step up for me, the biggest difference is definitely intensity, you have to be concentrated and on your toes the whole game.”
The teenager has settled quickly in East Anglia, helped by the fact he is living with first team skipper Luke Chambers, a man who has over 300 Ipswich appearances to his name.
“It was just really good timing,” said Andoh. “A couple of boys moved out and, as it’s so close to the training ground, the club thought it would be a good way for me to start.
“Luke has been amazing, he has really helped me and he is such a good role model for me to look up to.
“He’s had such a successful playing career as a professional and he is a real Ipswich legend.
“He’s a great mentor and has even taken the time to watch my videos back with me, give me pointers on areas of my game where I need to improve.”
The teenager’s rise to the top is no coincidence, he is not one to rest on his laurels and Solihull head coach Sam Manoochehri has praised the attitude of his former player.
“Levi is an unbelievable athlete, has pace, power, agility, there is no doubting he has been blessed with physical attributes,” he said.
“But you can see he wants to be a footballer, he came and invested his time and effort. Levi came over an hour every day to training, he’s had to make a lot of sacrifices.
Manoochehri picked Andoh up at the beginning of the season and the Solihull boss believes the club’s bespoke academy program helped uncap the defender’s potential.
“Levi signing for Ipswich, just shows that what we are doing works, developing young lads, maximising potential, giving players a chance, “he said.
“We’ve taken a lad from non-league obscurity and taken him onto another level and it’s thanks to our games program.
“What we did here, was not necessarily give Levi new skills but enhance him as a player, ensured he got game time and made subtle tweaks.
“It’s unique as we play against men’s senior teams rather than pitting ourselves against academies, something that really stretches the lads we have here.
“The nature of the non-league beast means he was forced to make tackles, defend one-v-ones and test his aerial ability.”
Andoh, who moved from Amsterdam to Wolverhampton when he was just five-years-old, has thanked Manoochehri for giving him a new lease of life.
“I’d been rejected by a number of clubs, including Aston Villa and I thought my career was over. I never thought I would get back playing,” he said.
“But Solihull gave me a lot of confidence, I finally felt comfortable playing, there was no pressure, everyone was so supportive there, the players and the coaching staff.
“Sam gave me a freedom to play my game, he allowed me to relax and I didn’t feel hurried on the ball. I could show composure and became more in tune with my game.”
“When you’re playing against men, you have to focus on more than just the technical side of the game as is the case in academies.
“It improves your all round game, your overall understanding, when you play non-league, you mature a lot quicker as a player.”
The club are set to hold open trials on Tuesday February 18 during the upcoming half-term, to register interest and find out more information, click HERE.
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