Kwame Poku, one of our own………
Kwame Poku is currently one of the hottest properties in the Football League. In his first season at Colchester United, the eighteen-year-old has already signed an improved contract, put in a string of outstanding performances, played in Cup games against Spurs and Manchester United and come to the notice of numerous higher-level clubs.
Although he had previously been on trial at a number of clubs and following a serious knee injury, it was not until Kwame joined Volenti Academy four years ago that his journey to professional level really started to take shape. Under the guidance of Academy Director Bobby Bowry, fellow ex-player Simon Osborn and other members of our staff, Kwame was given the opportunity to work his way back. His focus was clear but he needed support. “It was a tough time for me mentally but being out of the game for so long made me determined to get back. Being a pro footballer was the only thing on my mind.”
It was obvious that Kwame had real potential but Bobby knows how difficult it can be for young players to recover from setbacks and he concentrated on helping him to enjoy playing again without feeling too much pressure. Accordingly, Kwame represented Volenti Academy in the London Premier Youth League, playing a year up. Bobby said, “We drafted him in and, although he was then only fifteen, he had the touch, vision and balance of a seasoned pro. We challenged him to add more goals to his game and to be better without the ball. Thankfully, he took it all on board.”
The next step in Kwame’s journey was a two-year scholarship in our Academy programme during which he was able to complete his education at the London Nautical School whilst training regularly with our other scholars under the supervision of Bobby, Charlie, Nathan, Seth, Darren and the team. He represented us in our games in the National Football Youth League, initially in the ‘B’ team and then in our successful ‘A’ team. During this period, Kwame was able to gain further competitive experience with the under 18 and under 23 teams at Cray Wanderers before we recommended him to Worthing who play in the Isthmian League Premier Division and with whom we enjoy a youth partnership programme. Worthing manager and former Brighton defender Adam Hinshelwood says, “I just loved his cleverness and bravery to get on the ball in tight situations and his ability to create opportunities out of nothing. He played with a freedom and was always positive in the right areas of the pitch. He showed a maturity on the ball well beyond his years.”
Kwame relished the opportunity to test himself at senior level, often against players who had played at a much higher level and he had an instant impact as Adam made him a regular starter in his team. So impressive were his performances that, after just twelve games, Kwame was attracting interest from Football League clubs and last Summer, on completion of his scholarship with us, he signed for Colchester United who offered what we all considered to be the best pathway to progress his career. After a handful of games for the under 23’s, Kwame made his first-team debut in September and has not looked back since. He says, “The manager has shown a lot of faith and belief in me so I hope to repay that by working hard every day in training and in games.” At the point when football in this country was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kwame had made twenty-nine appearances, scored five goals with three assists and helped his team into the play-off positions in League Two.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given and I want to make the most of it.” Kwame knows that a lot of hard work lies ahead if he is to achieve his full potential and who knows where that may take him. We do know, however, that he’s one of our own and we are very proud of him