Undergraduate student Jake Bickerstaff is living the dream!
As a young footballer for Wrexham FC, the 21-year-old Sport Science student has been at the centre of one of the biggest sporting stories of the year.
Its just days since the Welsh club returned noisily to the Football League, resurrected from virtual bankruptcy and carried along on a wave of stardust injected by co-owners and Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Amid unforgettable scenes at the Racecourse Ground, Jake and his fellow squad players spilled onto the pitch at full time to celebrate promotion along with a capacity 10,000 crowd as a 3-1 victory took them to a stunning 111 points - a league record.
"It’s been amazing," said Jake. "I didn’t expect Wrexham as a club to take off this much and be so widely known - it’s been a bit crazy! Promotion after 15 years of ups and downs is everything the fans and community deserve; I’ve been there since I was 14, so being a part of the team that finally got out of the league was brilliant.
"I’ve trained all year and travelled to most away games along with playing a couple games in the FA trophy and I scored too. I also came on in the FA Cup against Sheffield United so that was an incredible experience. But the highlight is that day winning the league and the pitch invasion, that’s something I’ve never seen before nor will likely see again. It was special.”
Jake, who worked his way up to the first team from the academy, will get further plaudits as the club enjoy an open top bus parade around the town tonight (Tuesday, May 2) before an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas courtesy of the owners.
It’s another step in a promising career and one that is massively supported by the club and LJMU.
“At the club I’ve got (star striker) Paul Mullin who has taken me under his wing and helped me out with a lot of things on and off the pitch. Then at Uni, I’ve got a brilliant support network - Dave McDermott is my go-to guy and I get great support from my tutor too and also a performance lifestyle advisor.
“It can be tough because the business end of the football season is also the period of university exams.”
Due to Jake being nominated a ‘LJMU Sport Scholar’ he gets extra flexibility with his timetabling and, in Jake’s words: “everything you want as a professional athlete and in the academic sense.”
“My lifestyle advisor who helps me manage all my work and football games to try achieving the best I can in university but also on the pitch!”
Dave McDermott, Head of Elite Sport and Athlete Management at LJMU< said: "Jake has had a memorable year and it has been fantastic to see him develop as a player and student, while being part of a historic Wrexham FC team. He has achieved all this while having a Hollywood spotlight on him and the team.
"Jake has worked tirelessly hard at his academics while achieving huge success in his football. Hopefully, he will inspire other footballers to continue their studies while playing profession football. Jake has been supported due to LJMU being an athlete friendly University and accessing valuable support and mentoring from our Sport and Exercise Science school."
Image: Jake Bickerstaff (centre) after scoring his debut goal for the first team.