By Omer Demiral
Many talented footballers have graced the prestigious fields of Hanworth Road over the course of Hampton School’s 466 year history, although perhaps none as impressive as 16 year old England wonder-kid Joshua King.
From the iconic setting of the 3G to the ever so slightly more notable surroundings of the world-famous St George’s Park, King has gathered a vast amount of footballing experience and has achieved truly remarkable accolades during his career so far at both club and country level as well as at Hampton.
Football has been a dominant part of Hampton life for the majority of its existence, yet there seems to have a been a real refinement ever since the appointment of Mr Burke as director of football at Hampton in 2017. His arrival evidently sparked a new era for Hampton football as they are now the holders of the nationally acclaimed ESFA tournament, having won the competition for the first time in their history in 2018/19.
In recent years, Hampton’s footballing production line has been incredibly fruitful, with names such as Shaun Chris-Joash and Stathis Kalathias receiving Division 1 scholarships from top American colleges as well as 17 year-old Chibuzu Nwoko who was signed to Fulham last year. However, the freshest product and undoubtedly the most exciting talent to come out of this footballing factory goes by the name of Joshua King.
“I’ve always believed that hard work beats talent.”
King’s play style is aesthetic and seamless, yet his journey to success and the coveted England call-up was far from smooth or simple. His rapid rise to footballing joy was no miracle; “consistency is a really important part of any footballer’s development,” he said, “the people who put more effort into the training end up with the best results.” This seems to be the mindset King has stuck with ever since the Covid-19 outbreak. Whilst the pandemic cruelly wrestled a lot of young boys’ dreams out of their grasp through the restrictions it brought along, King saw it as an opportunity. “I used to run at least 1km every single day during lock-down as well as extra training. It’s the things people maybe don’t see that can have the biggest impact on a player’s development.” The effect it eventually had on King exceeded even his own expectations as he broke Fulham’s all-time record for most distance covered in a single game, clocking a mammoth 12.8km. The record was previously held by the current Liverpool midfielder Harvey Elliot, perhaps another sign of possible future glory for the Hamptonian starlet.
Whilst appreciating his academy coaches’ efforts in his progress, King also had high praise for the Hampton football staff: “All the coaches at Hampton were always supportive and I think they also had a big part to play in my development,” whilst particularly highlighting Mr Hurst’s contribution at the U12 level; “Sometimes, the games I played in for school were a little bit too easy, but I think Mr Hurst recognised that. He used to set me challenges during matches, like a touch limit, which would make me more complete as a footballer.” King also stated his gratitude for the works of Messrs Burke, Ritchie and Mills in the U15,U16, and First XI teams. “Mr Burke always placed huge importance on my weak foot. He was the one who really opened my eye to the importance of both-footedness on the football pitch – it gives you more options and makes you a more unpredictable player.”
This season, King has enjoyed the most successful year of his short albeit eventful career. He impressed early on in 2022 etching his name into the 19-man Fulham squad travelling to Switzerland for the FC Aesch U19 tournament in July. Following the success of the tour, King made his U18s Fulham debut on 3 September 2022 – still aged 15 – against West-Ham. At the start of the season King claimed that he “didn’t expect to be given much opportunity this season partly due to my size but also due to the competition within the squad.” Yet, he has made an impressive 15 appearances playing two years up, even scoring the opener in a 4-0 victory over Aston Villa. “But I’ve worked hard,” he added, “I’ve done a lot to be in the position that I am now.” It seems his efforts are paying off, as King’s quality is becoming increasingly more visible to the world. His season was perhaps best summed up in an article written by Dave Fraser of ‘The Sun’ regarding the England U16 side, describing King as ‘a regular for the Cottager’s [Fulham] U18’s,’ adding that he “has become a key member of Fulham and England’s youth ranks.”
However, all of this success brought along with it the responsibility of an inextricable commitment to a career in football. Consequentially, King was compelled to make the decision to leave Hampton School and go forth into the next chapter of his exciting football career at Fulham, despite saying, “Hampton is a great place for me to enjoy my football, there has never really been a weight weighing me down.” He also added, “Personally, I really appreciated how the school helped me balance Fulham and England training with schoolwork, and all my teachers have always been so understanding,” King related, “but there comes a time where you just have to move on.”
It could be argued that only very few know King’s ability better than his fellow Hamptonians who have been fortunate enough to witness his elite technique and unmatched agility as he glided past players effortlessly, week in week out. These traits have made him an invaluable player for Hampton sides throughout the years as he led the team to; a County-Cup final at U12, ISFA semi-final at U13, ISFA quarter-final at U15, and it all seemed to culminate in his most successful season of all – 2022/23.
Throughout the season King excelled for Hampton and led a variety of age groups to silverware in their respective competitions. He helped the U16 side lift the County Cup trophy in a 4-1 victory over Sutton Grammar School, despite missing the majority of their matches with either England, Fulham, or Hampton 1st XI duty. In the final, the U16 manager Mr Mills substituted him on late into the game with the victory seeming inevitable, yet King still displayed his footballing brilliance with a dazzling solo goal, even rounding the keeper to gently tap the ball in to the back of the opposition net. Although King did contribute to the success of the U16 side, he played a much more integral role in the 1st XI’s impressive run to national glory. Bringing the best out of others whilst imposing his own personal brilliance is a trait that has made King one of the best in the country for his age. He unfailingly demonstrated these qualities across the ISFA and ESFA competitions, scoring 6 goals and creating countless opportunities for his teammates. In the first three rounds of the ESFA cup he managed to score in all three games, including a last minute equaliser against Richard Challoner and an impressive brace against Kingston Grammar. Particularly impressive were his contributions in the latter stages of these tournaments. King played valiantly in a 3-1 loss against Royal Russell in the ISFA semi-final, conceding that they were “a top side and an incredibly tough opposition.” A mere 92 days after the disappointment of that semi-final exit, Stoke City’s stadium played host to the ESFA cup final – the most highly-regarded fixture in English Schools’ Football. Ahead of the game, 1st XI captain Matthew Moffatt had plenty of praise for King; “Josh is honestly the most humble guy. Unlike most other kids from academies who play in schools, Josh always puts the team first and he fits right in with the group.” Moffatt happened to be the first teammate to hug him in celebration when King doubled Hampton’s lead against Shrewsbury in the final, only a minute after coming on in the first half. King spoke regarding the game stating, “it was the best possible way to end my career at Hampton … it felt so good lifting that trophy.”
The future seems bright for the 16 year-old midfield prodigy and the upcoming season could see him break into the first team at Fulham. “I’m hoping for some chances with the Fulham U21s next year and sometimes during preseason you can even get chucked up into the first team. It’s all part of the process and I just have to continue impressing and make the most of my opportunities.” In a generation burgeoning with talent, cementing his name into a regular role will prove an arduous task. Yet, any Hamptonian will tell you the same – Josh King is special.