For Jacob Pepper a dream debut has led to an auspicious start to his professional career.
For Jets young gun midfielder Jacob Pepper a dream debut has led to an auspicious start to his professional career.
Most 18-year-olds with footballing aspirations can dream pretty big. But when it comes to making a debut, not many could match that of Newcastle's Jacob Pepper.
He kicked off his senior career in an international match when the Jets hosted David Beckham's LA Galaxy, running on before 23,317 fans for the last 10 minutes to help his team secure a famous 2-1 win over the star-studded American-based team.
So it is perhaps fitting that Pepper has kicked on to be one of the stand-out youngsters in the Hyundai A-League this season. He may not grab all the headlines of a goal-scoring striker but Pepper make no bones about it, the teenager has been one of the finds of the year.
"What a match to debut! A sold-out crowd at Ausgrid Stadium, it was a great atmosphere and will be one of the highlights of my career," Pepper told Sportal of his debut showing against on of the true idols of the game in David Beckham.
"I found out the day before that I could be sitting on the bench when the squad got named it was a rush and I couldn't wait. It all went pretty quick the preparation up to the game and even the time I got on the pitch all went really fast."
"Most of my mates were away on schoolies but they were watching on the TV. But I was asking for lots of tickets for my family, as I have a lot of family in Newcastle, so I was getting a lot of tickets."
Pepper went on to make a handful of appearances in the Hyundai A-League under then coach Branko Culina in the 2010/11 season, mostly off the bench.
But this year he has been handed a number of starts under current boss Gary van Egmond, who is renowned for getting the best out of young players.
"Gary has had a lot of trust in me over the last few months and played me a fair few times I am glad to be on the pitch and starting week in week out and I hope it keeps on going," Pepper said.
"The type of game Gary is trying to incorporate at the Jets is a high pressing game and my fitness plays into that."
"My fitness is tackling are probably my best attributes and it fits into the way Gary would like the Jets would like to play I am glad I can do it and it gets me on the pitch."
A natural defensive midfielder who has also played stopper in his junior career, Pepper is a proud product of the Jets junior system joining the likes of Jobe Wheelhouse, Ben Kantarovski, Ben Kennedy and Taylor Regan, as Novocastrians who have made the step up to the Jets senior side.
Pepper was spotted playing for local Newcastle team the West Wallsend Bluebirds and invited to train with the Jets National Youth Team when he was just 16 years old. It was a progression that Pepper attributes a steep rise in his proficiency on the football pitch.
"It (the NYL) has been massive for me," he said.
"I have had Craig Deans as a coach since I was 16 and I was just training with the youth team when it first kicked off."
"But just to be around the training grounds and the importance of high quality coaching has just helped me unbelievably."
"I am only young and I still have a lot of game time in me and hopefully I can keep sharp and fit leading into the next season."
Pepper enjoyed the training and stood out on the pitch in the youth team. And from his progression so far this season, he seems to be continuing to enjoy his steep learning curve, particularly when you are on the training pitch with the likes of former English Premier League players Michael Bridges and Francis Jeffers.
"When I first started out I wasn't sure how I was going to handle it compared to the Youth League but my team-mates have made it a lot easier and my confidence has grown heaps since I started playing," Pepper said.
"The senior players in the squad are great and they really help out the young boys. Kasey (Wehrman) and Jobe (Wheelhouse) both have had a lot of experience in there and at training they give me tips in my positioning and where I should be and they have definitely helped and I really appreciate all that."
"I love playing with Francis (Jeffers). He can hold the ball up really well and I like to bounce it off him and hopefully we can keep the partnership going for the rest of the season."
And even though he isn't looking too far ahead Pepper concedes he still has a couple of more dreams he would like to make come true; playing professionally overseas and following in the footsteps of long-time friend and team-mate Ben Kantarovski to represent Australia.
"Kanta (Kantarovski) is a great player and I have played with him since I was a junior growing up with him in Newcastle and all the best to him overseas," Pepper said the week Kantarovski left to try to help the Olyroos qualify for the London Olympics.
"It has been a dream of mine to play for my country and hopefully with some more game time under my belt I can show the selectors what I can do."
As far as playing overseas, I don't have a particular club I'd like to play for but ever since I was a kid my biggest aspirations would be to head overseas to Europe but at this moment playing professionally anywhere would be great," he said.
"The game is getting bigger and bigger in Asia as well so I love to go over there eventually but for the time being I will just focus on my job here in Newcastle and see what happens."
All we can say is dream big, because Pepper's dreams seem to come true in the most amazing fashion.