EXCLUSIVE: AFC Sudbury startlet close to transfer deadline day move
AFC Sudbury's teenage star Tyler French - who has been on trial with Premier League Crystal Palace and Championship Ipswich Town - is on the verge of a dream move to a professional club this evening.
While a senior AFC Sudbury source did not want to divulge any details of the identity of the bidder publicly at this stage when questioned, we understand that the club in question ply their trade within the top two tiers of English football.
They became the first club to come in with a bid for the highly-rated 17-year-old this afternoon and it will now be down to both parties to try and thrash out a deal ahead of tonight's 11pm January transfer window cut-off point.
It is possible that a pre-contract agreement with the unnamed club could be agreed if that time-frame is not met.
With the contract meaning he could not sign until the transfer window opened on January 1 and could only feature in two official matches for The Tractor Boys, he continued to play for AFC's first-team in the Ryman League Premier Division (three levels below the Football League).
The Free Press were first to break the news that Premier League Crystal Palace had then taken him on trial last week with French taking a break over the weekend to feature in Sudbury's 4-0 home defeat to Merstham before returning to train in south London on Monday.
Although not involved in yesterday's Palace Under-23s development league match, it is understood he did feature in a behind-closed-doors friendly at The Eagle's training base today.
A host of scouts, from clubs believed to include Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and even as far afield as Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen, have been coming through the gates at The Wardale Williams Stadium in recent months to watch the player whose natural position is a centre-back, but is comfortable playing anywhere across the backline.
Earlier this month AFC manager Jamie Godbold told the Suffolk Free Press that he was resigned to losing his star youngster, but did believe he was good enough to cut it at a top professional side.
“If he continues to play how he has played in the last five to six games I do not think he will be with us much longer, hence why we keep having scouts coming through the gates,” he said.
“But I think he is getting a real good education here. He is only 17 and playing at this level, which I don’t think too many 17-year-olds are.
“He is being exposed to a different and variety of centre-forwards and wingers that you wouldn’t perhaps get in academy football.
“So whatever happens I think he will be snapped up by a club. It is just a case of when; whether it is now or whether it is in the summer."
Thurlow Nunn League Long Melford was where French was brought through before he made the switch to AFC Sudbury's academy set-up, which began offering full-time apprenticeships last season.
After impressing in AFC assistant manager Andy Reynold's Suffolk FA Under-18s side as well as Sudbury's Under-18s and reserves sides, the youngster broke into the first-team at the back end of last season, playing three times in the Ryman League Division One North title-winning campaign.
In jumping from non-league to a top two-tier club he would follow in the footsteps of players such as Chris Smalling, who went from fellow Ryman League club Maidstone United to Fulham in the summer of 2008, and Malcolm Christie, who made the meteoric rise to top tier Derby County in 1998 from Nuneaton Borough.
More locally, Tyrone Mings earned a dream transfer from non-league Chippenham Town to Ipswich Town, which echoed moves from Bury Town to the Suffolk professional club by Simon Milton and, more recently, Ian Miller, now at Needham Market.
Cohen Bramall's transfer to Arsenal from Hednesford Town earlier this month is the latest non-league fairytale rise story to capture the imagination, while Leicester City's Premier League-winning England international striker Jamie Vardy is set to have a Hollywood film made about his rags-to-riches journey from the non-league ranks.
* For the latest developments on this transfer story, return to this website and follow sports editor @russclaydon on Twitter.