Evander Grubb made FA Cup history last September when he became the youngest player to score in the competition at the tender age of 16 years and 54 days. In our latest feature, we look back on the instant impact that Grubb made at The Creek.
Grubb began his career as a scholar at the Bristol Rovers Academy, but was released in December 2019. Left without a club, U18’s Manager Junior Soper acted swiftly to bring the exciting prospect to Bristol Manor Farm Football Club.
“I knew Evander’s dad (Marvin Grubb) through school – a few years prior to me being engaged with Manor Farm,” Soper began.
“I made an enquiry to Marvin about what Evander’s status was. I anticipated that he was going to be offered a scholarship from Bristol Rovers, but I thought that I would check nonetheless. But it was after speaking with Marvin that I found out he wasn’t going to be offered a professional contract.
“At the time I was putting a squad together, and I was looking to gather a number of high-calibre players. With the First-Team competing in the Southern League, and the youth side playing in the Premier Division of the Western Counties Youth League, I was keen to bring Evander to the club and promote him as a player.
“It was off the back of that phone call when Evander joined the club as the first signing for Bristol Manor Farm’s U18 side,” Soper recollected.
With a bright future ahead of the young midfielder, it was clear to see that Bristol Manor Farm had found themselves a diamond in the rough. After originally training with the new-look U18 side, Grubb caught the eye of First-Team Manager Lee Lashenko who brought the young player over to train with the senior squad. Speaking about his former player, Lashenko recalled that he saw the potential in Grubb right from the start of his time at The Creek.
“It was quite apparent from the beginning that he was a standout player with a lot of ability,” Lee began.
“You could just tell that he had that spark. He’s a tenacious player who wants to do well and succeed in this game. His ability cant be questioned and its there for everybody to see.
“In fairness, without sounding too overconfident – I more than less said to the Chairman, and other members of the club, that we’ve got ourselves a special player after about two training sessions. The first session I maybe overlooked Evander, but after seeing the second session I knew that I wanted to pull him across to the First-Team. After that there was no looking back.”
With Grubb settled in the First-Team, and playing regular pre-season matches on his own accord, the dynamic midfielder broke the record for being the youngest player to score in the FA Cup on September 12, 2020. The Portwaymen travelled to Cadbury Heath looking to earn a place in the first qualifying round – four wins from the first round proper. The match ended favourably for Manor Farm who defeated Cadbury Heath 5-1, with Grubb scoring either side of half-time.
Remarkably, the benchmark for Grubb’s incredible feat was only set just two weeks prior when Mydas Smalls, aged 16 years and 63 days, scored in Whitton United’s victory over Ipswich Wanderers in the extra preliminary round.
“It was mental, really,” Lashenko laughed. “Jamie Bird got injured after a minute of the game which effectively ended his season, and ironically it was Evander that we decided to bring on. I guess the rest was history after that point!
“He scored twice and probably could have had a hat-trick if I’m honest. From a Bristol Manor Farm point of view everybody left that game absolutely buzzing. And being fair to Cadbury Heath, they’re a decent side in the Western League and have a lot of good people working hard at that football club.
“I think a blind man could have seen how good Evander was that match because he played so well,” Lashenko exclaimed.
With the wind in Grubb’s stride, Evander left Manor Farm to join Huddersfield Town after a successful trial period from the Pro Chance Academy. Grubb featured as a trialist for Huddersfield’s Under-17 side in the EFL Youth Alliance match against Doncaster Rovers, leading to Huddersfield’s Head of Academy Recruitment, Lee Mellor, bringing the youngster to the club. But Lashenko reveals that Huddersfield weren’t the only club gunning for Grubb’s signature.
“There was a lot of interest from clubs in the higher divisions including the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea; But it was Huddersfield Town that took a punt on him and he’s really pulling up trees there.
“He was involved and came on for Huddersfield Town’s Under-19’s against Manchester City a couple of weekend’s ago; so to be just turning 17 and playing against one of City’s academy sides is a remarkable achievement.
“I think he needs to spend the next couple of years working as hard as he can, and making the most of every opportunity that comes his way. I believe that Evander will do that because he’s grounded and has a very supportive family. His dad in particular, who I’ve met, is a top man and a lot of children would love to have someone as supportive as Marvin is.
“He’s got the opportunity with a great club in Huddersfield Town, and the rest is now down to Evander. Basing it on ability alone, I think he’s got a big chance,” Lee said.
Bristol Manor Farm FC would like to place on hold their best wishes to Evander, his family, and Huddersfield Town; and look forward to welcoming them back at The Creek when it’s safe to reconvene.