LEAGUE ONE KICK-OFF: Leo played hard to get for Posh

Posh star Leo da Silva Lopes in action against Blackpool. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.
Posh star Leo da Silva Lopes in action against Blackpool. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.
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Youngster Leo Da Silva Lopes was so sure of his ability he didn’t rush to sign for Peterborough United when his local Football League club came calling.

Da Silva Lopes was spotted playing for successful Peterborough Junior Alliance League side Powerleague Under 14s when the Posh scouts turned up to run the rule over a frail-­looking, but immensely talented attacking midfielder.

Jermaine Anderson is Leo Da Silva's Posh role model. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

Jermaine Anderson is Leo Da Silva's Posh role model. Photo: Joe Dent/theposh.com.

They were impressed, but their target, who was then 14, played hard to get at first.

He loved playing with his mates and he didn’t want to leave them in the lurch midway through a season.

“Posh watched me twice,” Da Silva Lopes stated. “They wanted to sign me for their youth set­-up straight away, but I wanted to wait until the end of the season.

“I didn’t play for a club until I was nine or 10. I was happy kicking a ball about with my mates. I wasn’t bothered about doing anything else.

Matthew Etherington remains the youngest-ever Posh player.

Matthew Etherington remains the youngest-ever Posh player.

“But I joined Powerleague and I enjoyed playing for them, and we were trying to win some trophies so I stayed with my club and hoped Posh would still be interested in me at the end of the season!

“Luckily they were and when I finally signed for them I wasn’t daunted by my new situation. I had scored loads of goals for Powerleague so I was full of confidence that I could make it as a professional.”

Da Silva Lopes duly collected a couple of cup winners medals with Powerleague before joining Posh and becoming an instant hit with the club’s Academy staff, as much for his humble modesty as for his obvious ability.

He had already caused a stir behind the scenes when he shot to prominence at the age of 15 with a wonder goal for Posh Under 18s in an FA Youth Cup tie against Notts County at London Road.

Leo da Silva Lopes (back row centre) with his cup winning Powerleague Under 14 team.

Leo da Silva Lopes (back row centre) with his cup winning Powerleague Under 14 team.

Then followed a first­-team call-­up at the age of 16 years and four months. His debut against Crawley in April, 2015 made him the third youngest player in Posh’s Football League era.

New first-­team manager Grant McCann is a huge fan of Da Silva Lopes so don’t be surprised if he becomes a first-team regular this season. He’s also rumoured to be a transfer target of some of the top Premier League clubs in the country.

Da Silva Lopes added: “I’ve loved my time with the first team. It has been hard physically at times, but the rewards have been worth it.

“I didn’t expect to make my first­-team debut so young and I didn’t expect to have played so many first­-team games at this stage of my career.

“I want to push on further though. As far as I’m concerned, although we have a lot of midfielders at the club, we all have an equal chance of getting into the side. We all started afresh in pre-­season.

“I don’t mind where I play. In a midfield diamond I’m probably best on the right side of it so that could turn out to be my position.”

Da Silva Lopes regards French star Paul Pogba as his playing hero, but his role model is a player a lot closer to home.

“I love Pogba’s ability to be strong attacking and defending, but if I can emulate Jermaine Anderson I’ll be happy,” Da Silva Lopes added.

“He came through the youth team to become an established first­team player and that’s now my ambition.”

YOUNGEST POSH DEBUTANTS IN FOOTBALL LEAGUE ERA

1) Matthew Etherington 15 yrs, 8 mths, 20 days (1997).

2) Charlie Coulson 16 yrs, 3 mths, 10 days (2012).

3) Leo da Silva 16 yrs, 4 mths, 25 days, (2015).

4) Jermaine Anderson 16 yrs, 6 mths, 1 day (2012).

5) Mark Heeley 16 yrs, 7 mths, 16 days (1976).

6) Keith Oakes 16 yrs, 8 mths, 6 days (1973).

7) Andy Furnell 16 yrs, 9 mths, 14 days (1993).

8) Jaanai Gordon 16 yrs, 9 mths, 15 days (2012).

9) David Billington 16 yrs, 11 mthsm, 3 days (1996).

10) Steve Zenchuk 17 yrs, 0 mths, 14 days, (1983).