A FORMER Great Cornard schoolboy has fulfilled his dream of getting a professional contract with Ipswich Town.
But Jamie Griffiths, 18, has already been warned by Blues manager Roy Keane that the hard work has only just begun.
The attacking midfielder, who attended Wells Hall Primary and Great Cornard's middle and upper schools, was one of seven Academy scholars who have been offered professional contracts by the Blues.
As Town had the option of extending his scholarship by a third year, as well as releasing him, the offer of a contract was never a certainty when he was called to a meeting with Town boss Keane.
"It was a bit of a surprise," said Griffiths' father Alan, who lives in Great Cornard.
"We hoped that if he didn't get a contract, he would continue with the Academy, so we were really pleased when Jamie told us he had some good news.
"It is great that he has been recognised for all the hard work he's put in over the last ten years.
"He's met the requirement to get his first contract, the next step is to get another contract at the end of next season.
"Football has been his life, it's all he's ever done, now we hope he can go further."
Keane told the club website that he wants the seven academy scholars to push for a first-team place next season.
The Blues boss said: "Getting a professional contract is the easy part. They will be out of the comfort zone of the Academy now and it will be about how they progress next season.
"The hard work really starts for them now and we will be looking at the boys playing regularly in the reserves next season and staking their claim for a place in the first team."
Griffiths started playing youth football for Cornard Dynamos at U8s level but after just one season he caught the eye of Ipswich's scouts and joined the Blues academy.
The midfielder and defender Tom Eastman, who has been on the bench for the Town first team in recent weeks, are the only two players from their original Ipswich U9s team that have progressed all the way through the age groups to a professional contract.
This season Griffiths was part of the Ipswich U18s team that knocked Arsenal out of the FA Youth Cup and has been a regular in Town's reserve squad.
The left-footed set-piece specialist scored in the Ipswich Reserves 3-0 win over Bury Town in the Suffolk Premier Cup semi-final and on Monday came on as a second-half substitute for Alan Quinn, whose boots he cleans, in Monday's 4-1 cup final win over Needham Market.
Griffiths lived in Great Cornard, with his parents Alan and Tracy, and sisters Danielle and Rebecca, but is now in digs in Ipswich, living with a family along with four Town team-mates, including teenage striking sensation Connor Wickham and Eastman.