Harvey Vale: The Sussex teenager making waves for Chelsea and England
Families with more than one successful player are common in football, but not many of them can boast a current England under-19 international, writes Will Hugall.
For the Vale family, an integral part of AFC Uckfield Town, this is exactly their life as 18-year-old son Harvey is making waves for his country.
Born in Haywards Heath, Harvey and older brother Morgan – a forward for Uckfield – started their footballing lives in Crowborough.
Mother Collette Vale said: “Morgan started to play under-eight football for Crowborough Athletic at six years old.
“Harvey was spotted by a local Fulham scout at five years old whilst training with Morgan at Crowborough.
“He was asked to attend a ‘search for a star’ day at Fulham’s training ground in Motspur Park, was offered a six-week trial, and the rest is history.”
Harvey is now a Chelsea player, having made the short move across West London at under-13 level, and has garnered attention recently whilst appearing in first-team matchday squads.
As an unused substitute in an EFL Cup win against Southampton and a UEFA Champions League trip to Malmö, Vale had the chance to rub shoulders with world-famous stars such as Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Antonio Rüdiger.
This has been just the latest in a series of remarkable moments for Vale in the past couple of years, all of which require some getting used to.
Collette said: “When we read and see articles on social media with regards to Harvey’s career, it still feels very surreal to us that they are actually talking about our son.
“We have only just recently become slightly more used to it as it has now become a regular occurrence after every game, whether he is playing for his club or country.”
Vale, who generally plays across the midfield, had the honour of captaining England under-19 in a 3-1 loss to France in October.
He is a regular figure now in Ian Foster’s under-19 squad, having started all three games in November’s international break.
This seniority, in addition to the flexibility to play several positions, are clearly credits when it comes to Harvey’s selection for both club and country.
Collette said: “From a very young age when Harvey first started playing football, he was always played many different positions and never pigeon-holed.
“Harvey’s mentality is that as long as he is on the pitch, he’s happy and can bring a positive impact on the game.”
Despite all of the accolades he has already gained, including having his name mentioned as a future first-teamer by Chelsea insiders, Vale is still the same young man he has always been.
As well as remaining close to friends in the area, he is often found at AFC Uckfield Town’s home matches, where father Jamie mans the bar and brother Morgan regularly puts visiting defences to the sword.
It’s a world away from the bright lights of the Champions League, but to mix a day job of taking part in Thomas Tuchel-led training sessions with weekends spent at The Oaks is certainly an education in humility.
Collette said: “Harvey had always just been a naturally grounded and down-to-earth lad, even since a very young age.
“We do discuss this as a family and we stress the importance of Harvey keeping his feet on the ground and not his head in the air!
“Thankfully, this is second nature to Harvey and he has no problem remaining grounded.”
All of these factors have evidently stood him in good stead so far, and, in environments of such expectation at Champions League holders Chelsea and England, can only be good things.
Ultimately, though, success can be measured in so many ways.
What will endure regardless of form is the support of family, and Vale is blessed in this regard.
Asked what was most important to them, Collette and Jamie said: “Our hopes for Harvey’s future are that he continues to play football with a smile on his face and has the ambition to improve every day.
“We hope he is happy and fulfils his dreams!”