Published: 19:00, 11 August 2020
| Updated: 10:38, 12 August 2020
Ira Jackson Jr has made the switch from Folkestone Invicta to the Football League.
The 23-year-old has signed for League 2 Grimsby Town after a prolific season for Invicta in the Isthmian Premier Division.
He described it as the best season he’s had and it’s earned him a move to the professional game. Jackson finished the 2019/20 season with 26 goals.
Jackson Jr’s fine form last season was followed up by an impressive trial and it’s earned him an initial two-year contract with the option of a further year, helped along by his father, who did the negotiating.
On his move north, he spoke of his admiration for Folkestone, a club that played a major role in getting his career on track.
He said, in an interview with his new club: "I just want to thank my manager at Folkestone Invicta for giving me the opportunity, Neil Cugley.
“He is definitely the best manager in the non-league and now, it's an opportunity for me to be with, who I consider to be the best manager in the EFL in Ian Holloway. I'm looking forward to being at work!".
He isn’t the first to have made the leap into the Football League from Folkestone.
Johan Ter Horst and Harry Smith have also made the big step up after spells playing under Neil Cugley.
Jackson added a message on twitter, writing: "I would like to thank Folkestone Invicta for an amazing 18 months with the club!
"Neil Cugley, Edgy and Mev gave me a phenomenal platform to be able to show I was the player that I believed I was and worked so hard to be!
"There were a lot of firsts at this club and I will forever be grateful to the fans and to the players who have supported me on this journey of trying to reach a goal of becoming a professional footballer.
"Any young player that believes in their ability and wants a platform to show that and the right support Folkestone Invicta is the best club to do that."
His new boss Holloway said the player had several options and was obviously glad he chose them.
"I can't wait to work with him really,” said the experienced manager.
“He can play anywhere along the front, on the right, in the centre or on the left. He's of that age where I believe he will become a saleable asset to us."
He scored Invicta’s last goal of the now expunged 2019/20 season, with their second in a 2-2 draw against Brightlingsea Regent in the Velocity Trophy quarter-final.
Cugley’s men won the penalty shootout but Covid-19 ensured that’s as far as their progression went.