A YOUNG goalkeeper from Laindon hopes to follow in his Southend United hero’s footsteps after signing a scholarship deal with Millwall.
Harry Girling has agreed a deal to join the Championship side, after he was released by FA Cup winners Arsenal – having spent three years at the club.
His rise to prominence has drawn comparisons with another young breakthrough goalkeeper – Southend United number one Daniel Bentley.
Girling, like Bentley, is a former Bromfords School pupil and he recently won the schools Victor Ludorum Cup, for best sportsman, which Bentley lifted in 2009.
Southend fan Girling says comparisons with Bentley, who made 53 appearances for Blues last season, give him great pride.
“What he did when he was younger and what I am doing now almost makes me feel like it is meant to be,” said the 16-year-old.
“The more I play the more I see myself as a similar goalkeeper and that can only be a good thing. I spoke with him on Facebook once and he was very supportive of me then. I hope I can follow in his footsteps.”
After Girling was released by Arsenal, he was contacted by a number of interested clubs including Premiership teams Stoke City, Burnley and Leicester City as well as Championship sides Ipswich, Norwich, Cardiff and Nottingham Forest, and League One sides Colchester, Leyton Orient, Peterborough. However, after meeting Millwall boss Ian Holloway and the club’s goalkeeping coaches he said his mind was made up.
“When I first got released I was slightly surprised but not entirely shocked as the standard is so high,” said Girling. “Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in the world and I think I wasn’t as confident as some of the other lads, which counted against me.
“At Millwall the pressure isn’t so intense, but they are bringing out the best of me.”
Girling has an impressive sporting background, having been selected by England for Handball after Bromfords became National Champions but the teenager says his heart has always been with football.
Girling says he has been compared to professional goalkeepers Manuel Neuer (Germany) and Joe Hart (England) due to his strong build and says his strongest attributes are his spring and his power.
“All things going well I will sign a professional deal at the end of my scholarship with Millwall and then be loaned out for more experience.
He begins his scholarship at the end of June.