Wealdstone FC

The man who hotstepped his way through Leyton Orient with that delightful FA Cup goal for Maldon & Tiptree last season has recently turned his attention to putting his best foot forward with Wealdstone. Jorome Slew’s move to the National League newcomers rekindles a brief footballing fling from 2018, though he returns now off the back of a spell that wasn’t just bursting with goals, but the recapturing of a lost feeling.

Like older brother Jordan, he was a long-time Sheffield United youngster, though his route has been very much his own in recent years, and nothing if not varied. The 22-year-old’s exploits last season hint strongly at a player equipped to keep on climbing, but while ambition takes a front seat, he wants to ensure that a clear sense of the bigger picture will also be along for the ride…

 

The natural place to start, signing for Wealdstone recently. You’d been at the club before but what have you found since coming back, in terms of the team, the vibe?

It’s a good vibe. I know the boys have high expectations of ourselves this season and wanna push on, get in the play-offs. It’s a good vibe, everybody gets on. A good bunch of lads and hard workers.

Obviously the manager’s different this time, but when it came to conversations with Dean Brennan about signing – what he can get out of you, what you were saying to him, and so on – how did those discussions go?

It was a long conversation; it was a conversation that went on for a few weeks, if not months. This is why I’m happy to be here, because I know the gaffer’s got a lot of belief in me as a goalscorer, and as a player, as a person. He knows that he’s not just going to get goals, he’s going to get someone who’s going to work hard for the team. As a player, you can’t really get better than that, when you’ve got the backing of your manager.

With Maldon & Tiptree, you were in an extremely strong position, way clear at the top (of the Isthmian North) before last season was cut short. Looking back now, why did it work so well for the team, and specifically for you there?

If I’m gonna praise anyone, it would be the management, for putting that team together. Wayne Brown and Paul Abrahams put together a great team. It didn’t happen overnight, it was quite a difficult process of getting everyone to play the right way. For me, it was perfect, because it was everything I could have wanted as a striker. I was getting the right service, with the right players, and it was just that momentum once we got it.

With everything that was happening in football, in life, when last season stopped, with your contract coming to an end, what was the situation in terms of interest from different clubs? Was there anything pretty much sorted, and then it gets thrown up in the air because of the uncertainty?

Yeah, I wouldn’t say I had something definitely sorted. I had a lot of interest from early on, and we were in talks with clubs, but of course, as COVID got worse, it was more inevitable that clubs were gonna be more cautious about who they were signing. It did put things off and it did put me behind where I was aiming to be, so it was unfortunate, but I know I’m not the only person who was going through it. I’ve managed to get a good club in Wealdstone and I’m delighted to be here.

What about lockdown for you, what was the set-up, the routine? What was getting you through, besides fitness work?

At the beginning, it was kind of ‘right, football’s finished, I guess it’s done, let’s just chill out for a bit,’ but then the Prem was in talks about going back. I think everyone, including myself, wasn’t sure when football was actually gonna start again, so I got myself in a routine of waking up about 6 in the morning. I’d go for a run, I’d come back and read, do Spanish, just enjoy my time with the family, and then I’d do another session in the afternoon. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t all about keeping my fitness, it was keeping myself occupied. It got to a point where I was just bored, and I was thinking ‘what do I do? Every day I have no plan, I can’t go anywhere, so what should I do?’ That was actually my advice to anyone else: just keep yourself occupied as much as you can. That helped me a lot, and in the end, I did get very fit and I was ready to go.

You were at Sheffield United as a youngster of course, was it Gleadless where you grew up?

Yeah, I was raised in Gleadless for about 15 years, until we moved to a different part of Sheffield.

Were you a Sheffield United fan or did you grow up supporting someone else?

Of course. Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a Man United fan, but I always loved Sheff United. Before I went to the academy, I was a Junior Blade for maybe 2-3 years.

How have you taken to life down south, are you an adopted southerner now?! Has that become ‘home’?

I wouldn’t call it home yet! It’s what I’m used to, I’ve been living down London for probably around two years now, so it’s familiar territory, but I’d still say Sheffield is home. I’m not too sure where I’m gonna move to next. London’s a bit too much of a hectic lifestyle for me, fast-moving and on the go all the time!

Your time growing up at Sheffield United coincided with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Jorome’s cousin) doing the same. Did you get to actually play alongside each other much?

Well, Dom was always in the age above me; I think we were both there from when we were nine. When we got a bit older, I was playing up a few age groups, but Dom was also playing up age groups. We didn’t really play together until scholarship days, and it was only a few times we actually played together.

Having worked under a range of coaches and managers so far, what kind of approach do you think works best with you personally? Do you feel you work better from encouragement, reassurance, or can a more forthright approach sometimes do it?

I’m a bit of a mixture, so a manager that can talk to me, because then you know you’ve got a manager who can explain something if you’re not sure. I think you also need a manager that isn’t gonna take the nonsense. I’ve had a bit of both; I’ve had managers that can talk to me, I’ve had managers that will shout at me. Sometimes you have a little bit of a disagreement with your manager and you get a bit frustrated, and that brings out the better side in you. I think that kind of works for me sometimes. Sometimes I think I play my best when I’m, not necessarily mad at the manager, but when I’m stimulated, something’s bothered me and I’m like ‘right, I’m ready for work, let’s go.’

Which manager stands out as understanding that best so far? Wayne Brown would seemingly be the main one, but anyone else?

To be honest, yeah, Wayne Brown so far is top of my list. I’ve said it before, he’s a manager that made me kind of fall in love with the game again and get the best out of myself. If I’m going back to my younger days, I’ve had some great coaches. I’ve had Travis Binnion, he was my coach for years (at Sheffield United), and when I look at it now, he made me understand the game better. I’ve had some great striker coaches; I’ve had Brian Deane, and he gave me great advice, not just on the pitch but off it. He gave me some great advice on how to carry myself; as a young Black player as well, how to deal with that side of things. I’ve had another coach who had a great career, John Dungworth, another striker. I think everyone that’s played a role in my career as a footballer has helped me on to the path I’m on right now. I think I’ve taken a bit from every single one of those coaches.

With that advice you mention Brian Deane giving you as a young Black player, what was he keen to pass on to you in that regard? Was there anything specific he told you that has really helped you?

I wouldn’t say anything specific. I would say – and it’s not even just come from Brian, it’s come from a lot of people – being a young Black player, you need to work twice as hard. It is what it is, but it’s not just that. If you are in a situation where you experience racism, it’s dealing with that in the best way possible at that moment in time.

When it came to leaving Sheffield United, what happens in that situation? Do you get a coach saying ‘you’ve got this, this and this in your favour ability-wise, but you need to work on this’, do you get that feedback and support?

You do get feedback, of course. The good thing with Sheffield United, I was injured at the end of my scholarship, so I was fortunate enough they kept me on for another year, to do my rehab and get fit again. I kind of knew it was gonna happen and I wasn’t gonna sign there, but they knew what my potential was, they knew what my ability was. They said ‘go and do what you do, score your goals, we like you as a person, as a player.’ They also helped me find a club after I left, so they looked after me very well.

Again, it’s pretty obvious to pick out Maldon & Tiptree, so maybe in addition to that, when has been the most enjoyable time you’ve had in football up to now?

Yeah, Maldon was the standout, and like I said, Maldon and Wayne brought out the best in me, as a player and with my happiness on the pitch. I left Sheffield United when I was 18, so from the age of 18 to 21, if I’m being honest, I didn’t enjoy football. It was very hard for me to come back from injury, not physically but more mentally, and I think that’s why it took me so long to really kick on. Sheffield United was great days; I was at home, I was training every day, playing. Even if things didn’t work out there, I enjoyed my time. Then from that point on until Maldon, I’d say was a very tough couple of years.

I’ve got to ask about this, because one of the first pictures that comes up when you search Jorome Slew on Google is a player with dyed red hair…and I’m 99% sure it’s not you! So to clear that up…

Yeah, it’s not me! If I’m right, that’s a guy from when I went to Goole. I think I played one or two games there, but that’s not me!

Have you ever had to sing when you joined a new team, and if so which song(s) have you gone for? And don’t say Mario ‘Let Me Love You’…

I’ve gone for R. Kelly ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, I’ve done ‘Ignition (Remix)’. I even tried to do an Eminem rap the other day at Wealdstone, but they weren’t having it! I go for the old-school ones because I know I can sing those ones.

You mentioned the things you were occupying yourself with during lockdown, but what else in general relaxes/inspires you in your life, away from football?

I love going for walks anyway, but if it’s raining, then that’s the time to go for me, because usually it’s quiet and I have my own peace of mind. I can just think about whatever I wanna think about and shut everything off and just kind of enjoy the scenery. So I love my walks, as well as obviously spending time with family, working out and looking after myself. I like to read, play on the PlayStation, just chill out. I’m happy in my own space. I also love houses and I wanna get into the property investment side. A house could have me staring at it for an hour! I’m always flicking through online, looking at that kind of thing. I love artwork as well. I did it in school; I didn’t really take it any further, but it’s something I do want to get into down the line.

Finally, with so much added opportunity for reflection this year, as you look at it now, what do you want from these next few years? In football, but in a wider sense as well.

Achieve the best of my ability, and I believe that my ability can take me to the top level, so that’s where I’m aiming for. For the next few years of my career, I just wanna keep pushing on, working hard, scoring goals and just making a bigger reputation for myself. Out of football – because when we do interviews, we always talk about football, football, football – I wanna have a good family home. I wanna enjoy my life out of football. I’m 22, I think the next few years, and the next many years, I just wanna build myself as a person. I still don’t really know myself, so it’s kind of figuring out who I am, what I wanna do, how I’m gonna get there. There’s many things I think we don’t always think about, but this is why it’s good to get in your own headspace. The next few years will show for themselves, I think.

 Interview by @chris_brookes

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