An Ilkeston teenager’s dream of playing in the Premier League is firmly on track after he signed a professional contract with Burnley.
Jordan Cropper, 18, has spent the last two years turning out for the Clarets’ academy and U23 side, having spent his youth career playing for Nottingham Forest, Sandiacre Town and Ilkeston FC.
And for his mum, Mel, it’s great recognition for the hard work he’s put in.
She said: “It’s been a great couple of years for him there and to have signed a professional deal is reward for his hard work.
“He initially went to Burnley as a striker but they soon saw qualities in him that they felt would be better used at right-back and he’s gone on in leaps and bounds.
“It’s the same position he played in at Forest and he’s made it his own. They couldn’t believe how quickly he adapted.”
Cropper made one appearance for the former Ilkeston FC under manager Paul Holland, who recommended the teenager to Burnley’s head of youth recruitment Nicky Law.
The former Ilkeston Town defender, who also managed the likes of Chesterfield and Alfreton Town, watched Cropper play and ultimately helped instigate the move to Lancashire.
Holland said: “Jordan was well built for his age and a real athlete.
“I knew Nicky from our Chesterfield days as well as Sean Dyche and Billy Mercer at Burnley, so I recommended Jordan to them and they were really keen to take him.
“When you have a young player with talent you want to do best for them and ensure they are treated well and not just send them somewhere for the sake of it. Burnley took over the educational programme he was on at Ilkeston and he’s gone on in leaps and bounds, which is great to see.”
Mel added: “It was hard at first with him moving a long way from home. We were travelling at all hours to get to games, although Burnley were fantastic with him and put him up with a lovely family before he then got a place with another player.
“He passed his driving test first time as well so that has helped with the travelling.”
Cropper has trained regularly with the first team and was part of the squad for matches against Manchester City and Manchester United this season, all adding to the experience of being a top level player.
Under the tutelage of academy coach, former Nottingham Forest star Steve Stone, he has appeared regularly for Burnley’s U18 and U23 sides in competitions such as the Professional Development League, the Premier League Cup and the FA Youth Cup.
Mel added: “He enjoys working with the first team boss Sean Dyche and has set his sights on playing for the first team within a year or so, hopefully in the Premier League.
“His dad, Geoff, and I watch him whenever we can and his grandad, who is 86-years-old, sees him play everywhere and always has done. We’re all very proud.”