Middlesbrough Goalkeeper, Connor Ripley is in the early days of his career but with regular international experience with England U19’s, it won’t be long until we see him as a top class English goalkeeper.
Connor comes from a high quality footballing background with Dad, Stuart, twice a full England international and making over 500 appearances for Middlesbrough, Bolton Wanderers, Southampton, Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers where he won the Premier League in 1995. A very hard act to follow in modern football.
But Connor is well on the way to reaching those heights set by his Dad. I caught up with Connor whilst on International duty at the under-19’s European Championships in Estonia, where he looked back on a season of progress at the Riverside.
“It was very disappointing missing out on the playoffs by just a few points especially when we had worked really hard all season; I guess it just wasn’t our year.”
“We need to get back on our feet and hit the ground running again this season and see if we can get promoted into the top flight, and get this club back where it deserves to be.”
Connor is part of a great setup of young goalkeepers at the Riverside, with current no 1, Jason Steele; a regular for the England U21’s, earning himself a call-up to the Great Britain team for the London 2012 Olympics.
“Being a goalkeeper is a position where you have to be patient, I’m only 19 years old and I’m already in and around the 1st team which is a great achievement in itself.”
“But to have a keeper in front of me like Steely is an honour. Being able to train and also learn from him is a special opportunity. He is an amazing keeper and fully deserves to be in the Great Britain squad for the Olympics after some fantastic performances for us last season. I will have to work hard if I want to take the number 1 spot away from him.”
“Going on loan at Oxford was a great experience, it was a shame it didn’t happen the way I planned it, but that’s football for you.”
“I am looking to get out on loan somewhere in League 1 or 2 and prove to the gaffer and everyone else at the club that I’m ready to challenge for a place in the 1st team.”
Despite making few appearances for his club last season, Connor’s talent has still earned himself a call-up to the U19’s European Championship. After a tight 1-1 draw with the Croatians in the opening group game, Connor is confident that the team can progress into the later stages of the tournament, especially with the likes Everton’s, Ross Barkley and Chelsea’s, Nathaniel Chalobah permanent fixtures in the squad.
“It is an honour to be here and to represent my country in an International tournament. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play in a tournament like this alongside some great players and a great bunch of lads in the England team.”
Connor says he has a lot to thank his Dad’s former team mate, Tony Mowbray for. A former Captain and fan-favourite upon Teesside, Tony Mowbray, has managed to turn around the club on a small budget and has surely laid the foundations for greater things to come. Connor believes that time may have arrived and sees the ‘Smoggies’ pushing for automatic promotion next season.
“I think we have a really strong chance of gaining automatic promotion this season, but we must remain focused and take each game as it comes. We have made some great signings over the summer and they will strengthen the squad up immensely. Helping us to have a real push for promotion.”
“The gaffer has changed the club round dramatically since he took over in 2010. He is a great manager and gets the best out of every player. He is such an important man for this club and we need him here.”
Connor admits that the Championship will be as strong as ever after previously established Premier League clubs have made the drop into the division. Connor was once on the books as a school boy at Championship new-boys, Blackburn Rovers, and believes they will bounce straight back to the top flight.
“I hope Blackburn do well as I have lived there nearly all my life and I was at their academy before moving to Middlesbrough. I would love to see them get promoted but that’s as long as they stay under us in the table.”
Follow Connor (@connorripley) and the England U19’s team at the Under 19s European Championships in Estonia from the 3rd – 15th July 2012.
- Article as featured on football website, It’s Round and it’s White (