Sunday, February 2, 2014
Having established himself as a first team striker at St Ives Town, scoring 49 goals in 49 games for the United Counties League club, it was at Yaxley’s Leading Drove in May 2012 that 20-year-old Conor Washing-ton sensationally announced his arrival.
His hat-trick in the final of the UCL Cup in the 4-1 win over the Premier Division champions King’s Lynn Town was stunning, breathtaking, alarming. How could such a young player be head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch? The losing finalists’s manager, Gary Setchell, was in awe after the game. “He will play league football,” he told the press. “He was unplayable.”
And so it came to pass. After trials with Peterborough United, Cambridge United and Dagenham & Redbridge, the part-time footballer, full-time postman headed for Wales and signed for the Conference side Newport County.
It took the player a few months to get used to being a full-time professional, and sporadic appearances for his new club in that first season meant he was even linked with loan moves away from Newport after they finished the season with a win at Wembley and promotion to the Football League via the play-offs. Washington didn’t make the cut that day. He wasn’t even on the bench. Did the manager Justin Edinburgh still fancy him?
But all that hard work in training and keeping his head down had turned the player from a hot prospect into the real deal – and when a series of injuries saw the forward get his chance at the start of this season, Washington quickly became an integral part of the Newport team – and a firm fans’ favourite.
The decision by Peterborough in 2012 not to further their interest now looks flawed and costly. Newport apparently paid St Ives £5,000 for the player – but not before he had re-signed for St Ives and scored another 13 goals to give their promotion season a kick start.
Washington wanted to join Peterborough back then, telling The Hunts Post: “I am excited about going to Peterborough – it’s a big step, but it would be silly not to give it a real go. It’s going to be interesting gauging myself against the players they have there.”
But his three-day trial was a disaster. He trained with the youth team’s players on the first day and felt ignored. He was there to show the management his first-team potential – not how good he was against teenagers. He returned to St Ives, signed for the club again, and started the season on fire alongside new strike partner Karl Gibbs.
It was then that Justin Edinburgh took notice and took the plunge.
Eighteen months later, Washington’s new manager, Darren Ferguson, said: “Conor is a player that has good pace, he can play on the shoulder and I think we needed that variation. Britt [Assombalonga] can run in behind, but Nicky [Ajose] and Lee [Tomlin] and to a certain extent, Kyle [Vassell] like to drop off the front man and Conor gives us that different option.
“He was desperate to come to us, he wanted to sign and I am pleased to have him on board. He will go straight into the squad for Wednesday’s (tonight’s) game. He has played a lot of games this season so he doesn’t need time to get up to speed.”
Washington’s former manager at St Ives, Jez Hall, said: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Conor gets his dream move and Peterborough get an excellent player. As a Peterborough fan myself it’s excellent that I will now get to see Conor in a Posh shirt.
“I know that Newport had other clubs looking at him. We had a chat and we shall meet up hopefully next week.”
According to Newport, the deal, which is undisclosed, could be worth more than £500,000. But much of that will be made up of add-on clauses and the value of striker Shaun Jeffers, who has gone the other way, replacing Washington at Newport.
St Ives had a 20 per cent sell-on clause so will benefit from the deal – but by how much remains a mystery – especially without details of the down payment revealed by either club. However, what money St Ives do make out of their classy ex-striker’s move will be no more than they deserve for all the work they put in to his development.
With both of Peterborough’s Championship games postponed following the move, Washington should make his debut for Posh on Wednesday when they play Swindon Town in the Football League Trophy.