New striker Sam Joel can be the talisman of Lancaster City this season – as long as he remains on the straight and narrow.
That is the view of Dolly Blues manager Mark Fell, who has offered the former Blackburn Rovers youth star a platform to get his football career back on track.
Joel this week put pen to paper on a deal with City after impressing while on trial at the club this summer – scoring twice in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Welsh outfit Llandudno at Giant Axe.
Now aged 22, it was not that long ago that Joel looked to have the world at his feet when he was a teenager.
Billed as a potential Rovers first-team star, the striker certainly lost his way at Ewood Park amid question marks over his attitude.
He was released by Rovers in 2016 and has since drifted in non-league, but Fell believes he has matured and is ready to fulfil his obvious potential.
“I think Sam Joel’s talent is exceptional,” Fell said. “You don’t get to play at Blackburn and be highly regarded at Blackburn if you’re not a talent.
“But he’s had a tough time – made some bad decisions by his own admission. It was he who came to us and asked if he could come on trial.
“He said, ‘I’ve not been what I should have been – I’ve made some poor decisions but that’s my previous life and I want to come and work hard’.
“He wants to get back in full-time football and needs the platform to bring that to reality.
“In fairness, we have not had a peep out of him – he’s been as good as gold.”
Fell revealed he has certainly done his due diligence before handing Joel a deal.
“He’s a Barrow lad and I’m from Barrow – I know a lot of people,” Fell said.
“I have done my due diligence with regards to his character and it sounds like from speaking to people he’s been a bit of a lad about town.
“I don’t think he’s been as focused on his football as he should have been. I don’t know what the turning point has been but a light bulb has gone off in his head.
“If we can get what we should get out of him, then we will have some player on our hands.”
While Joel arrives at Giant Axe, two players have departed.
Dolly Blues stalwart Rob Henry (31) – who has played nearly 300 times for the club – has left his position as player-coach in search of some regular first-team football.
And wideman Paul Jarvis (30)– another club stalwart – has decided to take a break from football, which Fell insits is understandable considering he is less than two years down the line from receiving cancer treatment.
Fell said:“Rob wanted to play and was of the view that he was not going to get the opportunity to play here and did not want to fully concentrate on coaching.
“He’s been a great servant of the club and he’s a friend of mine, but I could not guarantee that he was going to play.
“He has the opportunity to go and play somewhere else probably at lower level which I think he understands.
“Jarvo needs a break which is understandable bearing in mind what he’s gone through the last 18 months.
“He’s got a young family as well and he just needs to take a break away from it.
“He probably didn’t play as much as he would have liked last season, but he’s welcome to come back if he wants to come back.”
Meanwhile, City are on the lookout for more pre-season opposition ahead of their opening league game against Stafford Rangers on August 17.
They faced Blackburn Rovers Under-23s at Giant Axe last night but have seen planned fixtures against Kendal and Fleetwood Town Under-23s cancelled.
They were also due to face Clitheroe, but their participation in the FA Cup has scuppered that arrangement.
Fell declared himself happy with the win over Llandudno, which also saw Brad Carsley net twice for the second time in a week.