BY TOBY PORTER
Joseph is much like any other Walworth boy – he dreams of one day playing in the Premier League.
But the 16-year-old is not your average teenager, because since April 15, he has been on the books of a top-flight club.
His current side, Wolves, won Championship promotion on that day with a 2-0 home win over Birmingham City.
So his dreams are a lot closer than that of many of his neighbours around Elephant & Castle.
And with a name like Joseph Joseph – his first name and surnames are the same – Wolves fans will surely be tempted to chant: “Joseph Joseph – so good they named him twice”.
The youngster already has a one-year scholarship and has signed a professional deal with the Molineux outfit, who he signed for in February.
But his mum Esther is urging him to keep his feet on the ground and to keep doing the things which have got him there.
Her down-to-earth attitude might help – she didn’t realise until her son was bought by Wolves for a six-figure sum that teenagers of his age could change hands for so much money.
And he has kept going to school – he is doing GCSEs so that if football does not work out as a career, he has something to fall back on. It is a story about Walworth which has nothing to do with gangs or violence – and an example that it is possible not to get caught up going along the wrong path.
Joseph was born at Kings College Hospital, along with twin brother Joshua, on February 22 2002.
He was raised on the Penrose Estate, Walworth.
He went to St George’s primary school in Elephant & Castle and Arc All Saints Academy, the former Michael Ramsey Technological College.
There was a stretch of grass at the back of their home, on which he would kick about with his older brother Jonathan, now 18.
“I didn’t really like football until I was about 11,” he said.
His older brother dragged him along to Greenhouse Sports, a club based at the Bethwin Adventure Playground in Burgess Park.
The way he played for Greenhouse was enough to attract scouts – his height might have helped. He is already 6ft 4in tall.
“I wanted to be a striker,” he said. “I wanted to score goals and I did get a few. The coach said I should try centre-back because of my height. I didn’t want to, much.
“When I did play at the back, I started to enjoy it more. I have been getting better in that position in the last few years.
“I like to defend – but I also like to get on the ball. Defenders start every move. We are the leaders. Three years later, I appreciate that more.”
He was spotted by scout David Marriott, of Lambeth Tigers, and had a four-week trial with Crystal Palace in 2013 and a six-month stint with West Ham the following year.
“The standard was really high there, so I was getting better all the time,” said Joseph. “They have a good academy.
“I was upset to be let go. It hurt. But I did not give up. If I had, I would not be at Wolves now.”
Southend signed him in September 2016, when he was 14.
“I knew that sometimes you have to go lower to go higher,” he said. “Southend was good for me. There were opportunities to be seen by more scouts.”
He was travelling 90 minutes each way from Walworth by train, two days a week.
“I had to leave classes early to catch the train,” he said. “I was very grateful to my school for letting me do that. I did get the work done, though – education is paramount. I am now taking GCSEs in maths, science, English, religious studies, computing and PE.
“I hope to do a BTEC course in PE. I like school, but not quite as much as football.”
He signed for Wolves after being watched by six of their scouts, including head of recruitment Joe Monks.
“They had wanted me for a while,” he said. “Other clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City wanted to talk to me.
“Mum didn’t realise fees could be paid for kids. She’s been telling me to stay focused, despite the money. The key is to keep improving. I stay behind to do extra sessions after training ends, getting used to using both feet and heading the ball more. I am always doing things that will make me better, even if it means just watching other players in games. With the right attitude, I have a better chance of getting there.
“If I keep working harder and harder in training I realise that I have a better chance of making it. I play with my older brother as often as possible – he travels up to Wolves with me from Wednesday to Sunday every week.
“My friends are happy for me. They know I work hard at school and at my game. I don’t hang around the wrong type of people.
“I hope I can play in the reserves and the under-23s next season. But most of my games will be in the under-18s.
“My big goal is to play for England. Uganda have been in touch, but I would prefer England if I have a chance.”