GBOLY Ariyibi is determined to build on his first taste of professional football, but says he will always remember his Oxfordshire grounding.
The 18-year-old winger has featured in Leeds United’s last two Sky Bet Championship matches and manager Brian McDermott believes he has a big future in the game.
But playing in front of 27,000 supporters at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground on debut and 30,000 at Elland Road in his first home appearance is a far cry from ten years ago, when the talented youngster turned up for his first training session with Quarry Rovers.
Born in the United States, Ariyibi moved to England from Nigeria with his parents Olabisi and Adewale, who still live in Northway, near Headington.
He was keen to get involved in football, and arrived at Quarry’s Margaret Road recreation ground in Headington.
“He turned up to training one night and you could see straight away that he was a special talent,” said Quarry chairman Neil McCrae, who at the time was one of the coaches of that age group along with Darren Gallacher.
“Gboly’s prodigious talent and his love for the game shone through from the minute he turned up at that first session.
“We have been keeping a close eye on Gboly’s progress in the professional game.”
Ariyibi was only with Quarry for a couple of seasons in the Oxford Mail Boys League, and it was while playing a match for St Andrew’s School in Headington that he was spotted by a scout.
He was signed by Southampton, where he remained until he was released last month, when Leeds swooped.
Ariyibi came off the bench to play 30 minutes in the 2-1 defeat at Forest, and then played the second half of the 2-1 home loss at the hands of Blackburn.
The player was thrilled to experience first-team football, and can’t wait for more.
“To be honest, the first couple of minutes were a bit of a blur, but I kept telling myself to be confident and positive on the ball and I quickly settled into the game,” he said.
“Playing in front of the thousands of Leeds United fans makes you realise what an honour it is to play for a massive club like this.
“It’s all happened so fast for me it’s hard to take it in, but I am determined to make the best of the opportunity.”
He added: “Quarry Rovers is where it all started for me.
“Whenever I need reminding that football is all about enjoyment and having fun, I think back to my time playing for Quarry with my friends.”
Leeds boss McDermott was pleased with Ariyibi’s display.
“I thought that Gboly did smashing,” he said after his debut. “For an 18-year-old boy that has come from nowhere, the occasion didn’t faze him.”
McCrae, whose club saw West Ham winger Matty Taylor come through their books, added: “It was great to see him pull on the Leeds United shirt, but Gboly knows that in this corner of Oxford, his coaches and former team mates will always think of him as a Quarry Rovers player.”