Humble Ethan Ampadu cried at losing but despite talent refused to showboat as a kid on way to Wales and Chelsea stardom

ETHAN AMPADU had a winner's mentality long before he hit the big time with Chelsea and Euro 2020 contenders Wales.

The midfielder's immense talent was unmissable from a young age, as was his desire to win every match he played in.

Ampadu's competitive spirit was regularly on display during his days at Stoke Hill Juniors in Exeter, but none more so than when they were cruelly eliminated from a kids' summer tournament on penalties.

Former Stoke Hill coach David Evans told SunSport: "He used to play for us in the summer tournaments.

"And then all of sudden, there'd be a penalty shootout in the semi-final and if you win it, you're in the final and if you lose it, you're going home.

"And I remember seeing him in tears after we lost a penalty shootout.

"Playing in local football was Ethan's first introduction to winning and losing and being competitive."

Ampadu was a cut above his team-mates and opposition players in his early adolescent years but showcased humility and respect towards all those he played against.


Evans said of the 20-year-old: "He was quite quiet on the pitch, to be honest.

"He was very unlike, perhaps, what people would expect a young superstar to be.

"He was extremely polite and quiet on the pitch. He just let his football do the talking really.

"Ethan was the opposite of [not being humble]. He was absolutely humble.

"He was very quiet and unassuming, he didn't show off in any way, shape or form. He was very respectful in the way he played the game.

"Obviously, some of the players around him weren't of his standard, but he would never showboat or anything.

"He was just a very respectful, grounded nice lad."

Amapdu's talents were also recognised by Exeter City, who allowed him to continue his love affair with Stoke Hill whilst he was on their books until the age of 14.

Less than a year after breaking into the first team as a fresh-faced 15-year-old, Ampadu would be snapped up by Premier League big boys Chelsea.

Antonio Conte handed him his debut in a League Cup match against Nottingham Forest in September 2017, in which he came on as a second-half substitute for Cesc Fabregas.

His Blues bow was a great source of joy for everyone connected to Stoke Hill Juniors.

Evans said: "When he first made his debut for Chelsea, I think he came on as a sub and he came on for [Cesc] Fabregas, I was so proud.

"Everyone was screen grabbing the television and taking a photo of it. We were so excited to follow his career.

"Of course, he started off by getting some games at Exeter City when he was about 16, which was unbelievable because he was playing summer football for us one and then playing professional football for Exeter City the next.

"And then very, very quickly, probably within a year, he popped up at Chelsea.

"We've been following his career all the way through and it's so exciting for all the people in Exeter really.

"Not just my club that he played for, but probably all the little clubs he played against.

"Probably all the clubs around here have followed his climb to becoming an international footballer."

Evans' pride was even more apparent following Ampadu's cameo appearance in Wales Euro 2020 opener against Switzerland last Saturday, although there was a slight tinge of disappointment.

He said: "To be honest, I was gutted he didn't start because he usually does start for Wales. I was very disappointed he didn't start.

"But I'm really, really hoping he starts against Turkey tonight.

"I'm really hoping he's in the starting XI against Turkey."

Ampadu's journey from the playing fields of Hamlin Lane to the European Championships serves as a necessary reminder of the positive impact grassroots football clubs – many of which have struggled during the pandemic – can have on kids up and down the country.

Evans said: "It sends a message that everyone can be successful at football.

"You haven't got to be at Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea to learn and develop.

"He learned and developed at Stoke Hill, at grassroots level, and then at the Exeter City Youth Academy."

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