Teenage goalkeeper Hill snapped up by Mansfield
It’s not often that a footballer gets signed up for a club on the same day they are due to have trials with another.
But that’s exactly what happened to 16-year old goalkeeper Jahquil Hill who agreed to the terms of a two-year deal with League Two Mansfield Town the same day he was supposed to start trials with Premier side Fulham.
“I was sitting down with my cousin in an office registering for this school and I ended up getting a call from a scout,” Hill recalled. “He told me Mansfield is offering a scholarship and a two-year contract to get paid to play football.
“This happened the same day I was supposed to start trials with Fulham and at first I was a bit confused. I was thinking Mansfield offered me a scholarship for two years so I can either stick to that or I can turn them down and go to Fulham — but I ended up going to Mansfield.”
Hill will now further his development at the Stags’ Youth Academy while attending North Nottinghamshire College on a two-year scholarship.
The former United FC goalie moved to England nearly a year ago where he lives with his father (former St George’s Colts and North Village midfielder Kuma Smith) and was spotted by scouts playing weekends for Bestwood Park Rangers and Hyson Green.
He was able to catch the eye of the coaching staff at Mansfield during trials last March just weeks after failing to sufficiently impress in trials at Derby County.
Hill, who has represented Bermuda at youth level, said he was determined not to give up on his dream of playing professionally after being overlooked by the Rams.
“I live with my daddy out there and he kept telling me things like that happen, so it’s not like I can’t get another opportunity because there are more clubs out there,” he added. “He just kept encouraging me to train harder, and I did.
“Things didn’t actually turn out as well as I had hoped for at Derby County. It was my first official trial, so I was nervous. The environment is really different from here in Bermuda and I went there thinking it’s going to be difficult because there are other goalkeepers there.”
Surprisingly, Hill actually started out playing football as a winger before what was initially supposed to be a brief goalkeeping spell unlocked hidden talent.
“I used to play on the left wing and score goals for the Titans (United FC) but then one training session I ended up going in goal because we didn’t have a keeper at the time,” he recalled. “I ended up saving a lot of goals and loved it.
“I started playing in goal at age eight and I’ve been there ever since.”
Hill’s proud mom, Naquaysha, says playing in goal has had a positive influence on her son both on and off the football pitch.
“This has actually calmed his temperament down across football, life and everything else,” she said. “He used to play outfield but didn’t have the head for it, so his coach (Casey Butterfield) decided to try him in goal and he actually succeeded.”
Hill’s mom has been one of his biggest supporters throughout his blossoming career.
“I went to every single game and he has grown a lot,” she said. “I am extremely excited for him and happy because I feel we have put in a lot of work to get to where he is now.”
Hill, who trains locally with former Northampton Town and Toronto FC goalie Freddy Hall, is due to return to the UK in two weeks’ time to commence studies and his spell with the Stags who rejoined the Football League at the end of last season after spending five seasons among the non-league ranks.
— Ilkeston FC new-boy Rai Simons scored on his debut for the English non-league side’s Academy last week. The striker also impressed in a 30 minute substitute appearance in the first team’s 5-0 win over Coalville Town at the weekend.
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