Published: 05:00, 11 January 2022
Ramsgate forward Josh Ajayi is on trial with Premier League giants Tottenham this week.
Manager Matt Longhurst expects the player to leave Southwood, whether it’s for Spurs or a Football League side.
League 2 strugglers Stevenage are set to table a bid while, on Monday, Longhurst was contacted by an unnamed League 1 club over a deal for the 19-year-old.
Ajayi, released by Crystal Palace in 2020, has scored 19 goals in league and cup this season.
He's due to train with Tottenham’s under-23s for the first time today and will be in again on Thursday and Friday.
“It’s really good for the boy and for us as a club,” said Longhurst.
“We had the friendly against Spurs in the summer and Stevenage have been to watch him four times and are looking at placing a bid this week.
“I think it’s one of those where word gets round and Spurs got in touch and said they’d like to take him in.
“I’ve had a League 1 club on to me as well who are keen for him to go there.
“He didn’t have a club when we signed him last season.
“He’d been turned down by Corinthian, who were then in Southern Counties East, but we saw enough to offer him a two-year contract.
“We’ve invested in him and he’s gone from strength to strength. He’s still only 19, he’s 6ft 2in, he’s quick, he’s powerful, he works hard off the ball and he’s scored 19 goals, 17 in the league.
“He was at Palace for a number of years and people know he’s had that education but they’ve also seen a young lad who’s been let go and taken it on the chin, dropped down a few levels and got his head down and worked hard.
“He’s a really good story for other young players who are getting let go by pro clubs.
“He won’t be with us by the end of January - I’d be very surprised if he is.
“He met with Stevenage last week, and we’re waiting for the offer to come in any day, he’s in with Spurs this week, and there’s this League 1 club who I can’t name.
“When I came in, the club wanted me to produce young players and for us to get a name for doing that.
“We wanted to create aspiration for young players in the club and get that link between the youth teams and the first team.
“All the young players know who Josh is, they aspire to be like him and Denzelle Olapade, who’s another very good player.
“We want Josh to be a pro footballer and we’re being accommodating in every sense so the move happens.
“We had it with Emmanuel Fernandez, who signed a two-year contract at Peterborough and is in a really good place there, and now we’ve got it with Josh.
“It’s brilliant for Ramsgate, it shows the calibre of player we’ve got here and that we’re a club who create opportunities for young players if you’re good enough.”
Longhurst will accompany Ajayi to Tottenham’s training ground today.
He has his own thoughts on what’s best for the youngster - under-23s football at one of the biggest clubs in the country or the prospect of immediate first-team action elsewhere - but that’s for Ajayi to decide.
“It’s hard to say,” said Longhurst. “I don’t know Paul Tisdale at Stevenage so it would be wrong for me to say it’s not the right place for him.
"They’re battling relegation but first-team football would be great and it’s not going to hurt him in terms of his own progress by going there.
“At the same time, a year or 18 months under Wayne Burnett, who I do know, at Spurs, and he’d be in probably the best training ground in England with everything as elite as it can be.
“That’s going to be a great opportunity and even the League 1 club have got a lot of young players in their first team and a manager who likes to develop players and move them on.
“I’ve got my own opinions but that’s not for me to say. It’s for Josh to decide and I think by the end of the week he’ll have a clearer picture of what he wants to do.
“We want to do the right thing by the boy and by whichever clubs come in, to give him the best opportunity. You do the right thing by people and the right things come back to you.”
Ramsgate travelled to Haywards Heath on Saturday, only for the game to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
They’re back on home ground in Isthmian South East this Saturday, with Sevenoaks the visitors.
Longhurst is preparing for life without Ajayi.
He said: “I’ve spoken to the chairman at length.
“It would hurt any club in the top five to lose a player of Josh’s quality and we’re no different.
“But that’s the blueprint of the club and we’ll be on the look-out for the next one.
“We’re a point outside the play-offs and we need to bring in three players between now and the end of January to bolster the group.”