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Under-18s

Get to know – Ollie Eagle

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to claim another scalp when they face Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday (7pm kick-off).

James Lowy’s under-18s meet Spurs at AFC Wimbledon’s Cherry Red Records Stadium having already knocked out category one opposition West Brom and Newcastle in the previous two rounds.

Here, afcb.co.uk introduces you to some of the members of the successful squad, with vice-captain Ollie Eagle put under the spotlight...

From tears of sorrow to tears of joy…introducing Ollie Eagle.

The cultured central defender, who is vice-captain of AFC Bournemouth under-18s, is spurred on by rejection.

Released by West Ham having spent seven years with the club, Eagle joined the Cherries in 2022 following further rebuffs from Rangers and Sheffield United.

Now a second-year scholar, Eagle, 18, candidly admits his journey to Vitality Stadium has been something of an emotional rollercoaster.

Following a successful trial period, he uprooted from his home in Essex, leaving behind his family and friends to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

“The first few days were horrendous,” said Eagle, who was born in Romford and moved to Ingatestone when he was six. “I didn’t want to move away from home and think I spent more time crying than sleeping. It was that bad.

“But I love living in Bournemouth now. Had things gone differently, I could have moved to Glasgow or Sheffield, but I’ve ended up in Bournemouth.

“When I first came, it was sunny and you’ve got the beach on your doorstep. Sometimes, we have a swim after training and the lifestyle here is brilliant.

“I don’t think some of the lads who have only ever lived here appreciate it as much as I do. I was homesick to start with and still have the occasional moment, maybe after a long weekend at home.

“People might think it’s easy – the lifestyle and training every day. But it can be difficult when you only see your family and friends once a month, especially for a teenager.

“It makes you more of an individual and I’m definitely more dependent on myself, which is good for me. It’s all blocks to make me a better player and better person and to be able to cope with different things that come my way.”

Tears have been something of a recurring theme for the Eagle family in recent years, mum Kerry shedding more than her fair share when she discovered Ollie had been offered terms by the Cherries.

“It was a really difficult time for me after I’d been released by West Ham,” said the youngster. “I was trying to juggle doing my GCSEs with having trials at other clubs.

“I flew to Scotland and had a week with Rangers before spending a fortnight with Sheffield United. They both rejected me before Bournemouth showed an interest.

“My trial was long. I had a week training with the under-18s and then had some games about a month later but didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks.

“After I had played a game for my school, I went to find my mum in the car park and she was sitting in the car in floods of tears.

“I thought something bad had happened but she had just received a call from Bournemouth telling her they wanted to sign me.

“I had tears of joy as well. From going through so much rejection to someone wanting you is such a great feeling. I’ll always remember the look on my mum’s face, it was the best news I’d had for a while.”

While moving from Essex to Dorset was something of a culture shock for Eagle, his first day at Brockenhurst College was also an eye-opener.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked!” he laughed. “We were in the minibus heading back from the college and I saw what I thought was a donkey in the middle of the road. It was actually a horse.

“Everyone else was just so chilled out and I was there filming it on my mobile phone, thinking this is not normal.

“The other lads were laughing at me because they had seen it all before. The horses were pooing in the middle of the road and causing massive traffic jams.

“I couldn’t believe it. You don’t see things like that where I come from. That’s why they’ve nicknamed me Essex Boy!”

Eagle, whose father Dom qualified as a professional golfer and is now general manager at Ingrebourne Links Golf & Country Club in Rainham, plays off a handicap of ten.

He enjoyed an excellent first season with the Cherries, helping them lift the EFL Youth Alliance title and starting against Liverpool in the third round of the FA Youth Cup at Vitality Stadium.

He said: “When my scholarship started, I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t realise just how much fitter and stronger I needed to be. I spent the whole of pre-season getting my body into shape so I could compete.

“I ended up having a good first season. As a first year, you’re not typically expected to start many games, but I played every league game bar two.

“We’ve stepped up from category three to category two this season and the demands are much higher. We are playing against bigger teams with better players and the facilities are better.

“We had an overnight stay for a game which was a great experience and it’s very professional. It gives you the first-team feel which is just what you want as an academy player.”

This article appeared in an edition of MATCHDAY earlier this season.

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