FOREST GREEN fan and former youth keeper Jamie Stephens can boast to keeping a clean sheet against the youth team which has produced a large chunk of Spain’s World Cup winning squad and World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, writes Rob Iles.

The 16-year-old from Wotton-under-Edge is living the dream since completing a switch from Swindon Town to Premiership giants Liverpool in April, and has already been on tour with the under-17s and reserve squad to Holland and Belgium respectively.

Stephens, who will sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday on August 25, played in the AEGON Future Cup as Liverpool triumphed 1-0 over Barcelona under-17s, where the likes of Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta started their illustrious careers.

Stephens said: “A lot of them were internationals already at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level. They’re technically very good, quite scary opposition.”

The former Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School pupil played in every game as Liverpool beat Anderlecht 2-1 to finish third after defeats to Ajax and China in their group.

“It was a brilliant experience, we got to travel a bit, experience different things, different cultures and see what the players are like. It was a really good team-building exercise and a good tournament,” Stephens added.

He moves up the under-18s this season and is hoping to be first choice after being handed the number one shirt. Stephens also got his first reserve team experience much earlier than expected, coming on in a friendly against Belgian side GENK with 15 minutes to go.

The former Wotton, Wickwar Kingswood and Forest Green youth goalkeeper is still getting his head around his dramatic rise.

He said: “It is an unbelievable feeling from playing local football, spending ten months as an apprentice at Swindon and being offered a professional contract at Liverpool.

“You sit back and look at it some days and think that hard work does pay off.

“I’m keeping everybody happy back home and hopefully they’re proud. When you’re doing something good with your life you can’t ask for more.

“Training is of a higher standard, the facilities are great and it’s a bit different - hard but still good.”

Stephens will train mostly with the Academy in Kirkby but is hoping to get a chance at some stage to work with Spanish goalkeeper Jose Reina, He met Anfield legend Jamie Carragher before the England defender went to South Africa and is looking forward to working with new Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson, who he met before when Swindon under-16s played Fulham in a pre-season friendly.

“I met him a couple of years back when I was at Swindon. Just before the game, him and the first team said hello,” recalled Stephens.

“He seemed a really good bloke, I hope to see him again soon.

“He’s a man with experience and he done well last season so I’m confident to have him as a manager.”

Stephens has settled well in Liverpool, where he is living with a family chosen by the club, but admits sometimes it can be tough being 170 miles away from home.

He said: “Some days you get down about it but you’re doing it for your family, trying to make them proud, so you’ve got to think of the positives and the time you do spend with them you cherish it more.”