STRATFORD Town top scorer Ben Stephens has taken a step towards his dream of becoming a full-time footballer after being invited to join Ipswich Town for training.
The 21-year-old has turned down a move to Banbury United after they made an approach last week.
But such has been his form – scoring 17 goals – that the Championship Tractor Boys want to have a look at him and Stephens will spend two days training.
Stephens says Town’s attacking playing style and the wise words of manager Carl Adams have helped bring the best out of him.
“I see no reason to leave this club. I love being at Stratford, I enjoy our style of play which suits me and they are a lovely bunch of lads and we are actually mates and socialise together whenever we can,” Stephens told the club’s website.
“The club and the fans have always been great to me and have been very supportive since I arrived here.
“The gaffer has always offered me really good advice and plays to my strengths, playing me in my best and favourite position in the team.
“I am delighted to be invited to train with Ipswich but I still remain committed to Stratford.”
The former Kettering Town front-runner has excelled this season, scoring 14 league goals and providing a quicksilver and elusive foil alongside Mike Taylor, Jazz Luckie and Edwin Ahenkorah.
Adams said Stephens’ decision to reject Banbury was a huge boost and a message that they want to keep building for another record-breaking season.
Adams said: “ I am delighted that Ben chose to stay here and by keeping him we showed that we are determined to retain our talented players.
“However, Ben’s excellent form and goals are naturally going to attract attention from other clubs and we are keen to encourage players to develop their careers when the right opportunity arises.
“We wish Ben all the best with his two-day training invitation at Ipswich but he’ll still be playing for us and hopefully will continue scoring goals as we seek to achieve the club’s highest ever league finish.”
After Tuesday’s frustrating postponement at Basingstoke Town after players and fans had travelled to Hampshire, Stratford occupy 14th place in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier table – three points from the top ten.
They proved their credentials with a goalless draw at home to top six outfit Weymouth on Saturday and will face another challenge on Saturday against ninth placed visitors Hitchin Town at the MoodChimp Stadium.
Weymouth hit the bar twice through Charlie Davis’ shot and Ben Thomson’s header but Stratford’s battling qualities ensured they deserved a point.
Town’s Louis Connor was impressive to deny Thomson, but Stephens fired at Terras keeper Will Dennis, who also kept out a Liam Francis header and a Stephens strike.
“We’ve had a tough run of fixtures recently and done really well in all of them,” said Adams. “We may not have come away with a lot of points but we have certainly come away with a lot of credit.
“We’re playing some entertaining football and I’m intensely proud of every single one of them.”