Leamington boss Paul Holleran hailed Courtney Baker-Richardson as “a real success story” after the attacker’s switch to Swansea City was made official this week.
The 21-year-old signed a two-year deal with the Premier League club and made a dream debut on Tuesday night with an assist from the bench as the Swans’ under-21 side came from behind to beat Cheltenham 2-1 in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Swans fought off interest from Leicester City to secure the signature of the Coventry-born attacker who made 74 appearances for Brakes, scoring 26 goals, including last season’s play-off final winner and Holleran said he took pleasure from the way Baker-Richardson has matured while at the Phillips 66.
“He’s been a real success story,” said Holleran.
“He came to Leamington 18 months ago and he was on the road to nowhere.
“He’d had about six clubs in six months and was running out of places to go.
“We settled him down and we knew there was something there.
“We had to knock him into shape on and off the pitch which took six months and he has developed into a nice young man.”
Baker-Richardson spent six years at Coventry City before being released at the age of 18.
Trials at Torquay and Kidderminster failed to produce a contract and unhappy spells at Romulus, Nuneaton Town, Redditch and Kettering Town followed.
It was only when he joined Leamington towards the end of the 2015/16 campaign that he found his feet and Holleran admitted his move to Swansea was a shining beacon to other youngsters whose dreams of full-time football appear dashed.
“It’s great when it happens, especially when someone has had so many knock-backs.
“The trouble is that many of these young kids at Football League clubs live in a bubble for ten years and they get taken into an office at 17 or 18 and released and they are completely lost.
“Courtney has had the character and strength not to drop his head - he’s so determined.
“Six months down the line at Swansea and he will be a different beast.
“He’ll get the opportunity to go out on loan to a League One or Two club and once you’ve got the platform it is up to you.
“He’s so desperate for it so fingers crossed for him. He’s a great example to other young kids.”
The departure of Baker-Richardson has left Brakes’ attacking options depleted, especially with the goals from midfield of Jack Edwards also having been lost in the summer.
However, Holleran said that without the resources of many of their rivals, their policy of trying to unearth rough diamonds would continue.
Even, as was the case with Jacob Blyth and Danny Newton before him, it meant success stories like Baker-Richardson would leave to try and prove themselves at a higher level.
“It’s what we have always done.
“We get players like an Ahmed Obeng, Robbie Thompson-Brown, Colby Bishop, Kurtis Revan who have had a crack at this level and not quite worked out and we take a bit of time with them and polish them up.”