Published: 06:00, 12 April 2020
| Updated: 09:38, 12 April 2020
Every footballer needs a garden like this in lockdown.
Herne Bay striker Zak Ansah's back yard may just be the envy of players everywhere.
Former Arsenal striker Ansah has been scoring goals for fun at his Isthmian League club, as well as Sunday League side South East Dons. With training facilities like this it’s no wonder.
The 25-year-old is having no trouble keeping on top of his game.
He’s had the facilities at home for around two-and-a-half years but only now are they coming into their own. Even pro players are having to take a ball to the park to keep on top of their game. Not so for the former Arsenal player.
3G pitch - check, two goals - check, wrap-around boards and netting - check, lighting - check, viewing area - check, football loving house-mate - check. It’s all there for Ansah to enjoy his football whenever he wants.
Ansah, who lives in Bromley, said: “It was a bit overgrown when I first moved in and I just wanted something flat with grass on it. This was never my original intention but I came up with the idea of astroturf and here we are!
“I am out there every day in my garden, especially with the weather being so good at the moment.
“All the time people mention my garden and if I was a kid I would be out there all day. My neighbours are cool with it, they have never complained, we aren’t out there at silly o’clock.
“Before we were in quarantine we would have three-a-side, or drills and training, but now it’s just me and my housemate doing one v ones.”
Jordan Hibbert, who he lives with, can play a bit too so he’s got someone on hand to keep him on his toes.
Ansah’s goal exploits helped push Bay into the play-off places this season. He was heading for the 30-goal mark for the Isthmian League side before the FA decided to call it null and void with 10 games to go.
“The season didn’t start too well but we came through some difficult times, showed character and resilience and we ended up in the play-off positions. I’m just gutted the season got voided.”
Sunday football is over too. He’s got 69 goals in the 66 games he has played for the well-supported SE Dons, who play in the Senior Division of the Orpington & Bromley District League.
With a decade on the books at Arsenal, from the age of 11, he’s been in good company while growing up.
He was in the same youth side as German international Serge Gnabry, now playing at Bayern Munich. His old team-mate has scored 13 goals in 13 appearances for the national team. Hector Bellerin is another, reaching 150 league appearances for the Gunners.
Ansah went on to join Charlton Athletic after leaving Arsenal, who loaned him out to Plymouth Argyle and Newport County. A season with Woking was followed by a prolific year at Kent side Hythe Town. Bay moved for the striker last summer and he’s not let them down.
He’s keen to pass on what he has learned too, with one-to-one coaching in his garden, something which is on hold during the coronavirus crisis. The seated area overlooking the pitch allows parents to watch their kids learn the tricks of the trade.
Ansah, whose day job is working for his dad's production company Sports on Screen, said: “I’ll coach anyone who contacts me. I enjoy helping people - it is satisfactory if you can help them and you see them get better.”
His father, Andy, played more than 150 games for Southend United and also had a brief spell with Gillingham.
With the 2019/20 campaign scrapped, Ansah will be having an extended pre-season, and he says it will take something special to take him away from Herne Bay, where he has been enjoying his football.
“The offer would have to be right for me to leave,” he said.
“I am enjoying my football there. I wouldn’t just go because it was a higher league. I am enjoying my football and that is the most important thing for me, especially with the balance of playing Sundays as well.”