BRIGHTON sensation Tariq Lamptey was born with electric pace which he showed at the tender age of just five, according to a former coach.
The 20-year-old right wing-back has thrived with the Seagulls under the stewardship of Graham Potter, after ditching Chelsea in 2020.
And the Arsenal target's blistering speed has been his biggest weapon – clocking 22.8mph in a sprint against Newcastle back in September that officially makes him the fastest player in Europe.
But that wasn't a surprise to Ron Durrant, chairman of Larkspur Rovers of West London, where Lamptey began playing his football.
As an ambitious four-year-old, he first caught the eye of the Northolt side's coaches with his boundless enthusiasm for the game.
Then, when he was old enough, the young boy was thrown straight into the U6 team, where he scored goals for fun – always outrunning his opponents to score.
"He was five when he joined us in our nursery set-up," Ron, age, told SunSport exclusively.
"But I remember first seeing him play a year before that in a park where we used to train when he was just four.
"Tariq would be kicking a ball around with his dad next to us, but at the time he was too young to join us.
"He kept coming back every week, until the coach who ran the nursery allowed him to join in.
"Eventually, when he was old enough, he was able to train with us full-time and play games."
Durrant took Lamptey under his wing when he coached Larkspur's U6 team.
Even at that age, Ron couldn't believe how fast the kid was and was impressed by his determination to become a professional footballer.
"I took over the under-6 team, and Tariq came into our age group.
"He played with us for a couple of years, and he trained with us twice a week.
"Tariq had that lighting pace that you just can't teach. I think he was born with it!
"Being that fast at that age can mean you stand out, because not many kids of that age group are that quick.
"And when you play in small-sided games it gets you noticed, especially back then when the pitches the kids played on were bigger.
"Tariq would play upfront for us and chase everything down. He might have 20 chances in a game and score 10 of them, but he created so many because of his pace.
"The ball would get knocked through and Tariq would come out of nowhere and just race through on goal to score.
"I think he scored 30 or 40 goals for us one season. He was so far ahead of anyone else.
"He was also willing to work hard, he was always at every training session and was never late."
In 2008, Lamptey joined the youth academy at Chelsea aged eight after training with other clubs, including Tottenham.
Ron acknowledged that Lamptey's father Ahmed played a vital role in his son's success story.
"Tariq's dad certainly deserves credit because he did the mileage – taking his son all over London to different clubs and training sessions.
"It was clear Tariq really wanted to be a footballer, and he never missed an opportunity to train."
Although Lamptey was training with Chelsea, he never forgot his roots.
His appetite for the game would see the Blues youth star return to Larkspur in his teens and play in tournaments for them in the summer.
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Durrant revealed: "When he had a break at Chelsea and had six weeks off before preseason, Tariq used to come to us to train – when he was around 14, 15, 16.
"He also played a couple of tournaments for me, just to make up the numbers, and he was head and shoulders above everyone else.
"He's a local lad to Northolt and has always had an affinity with the club. He had to take it easy so he didn't get injured, but he was still miles better than anyone else playing at half pace."
Last year, Lamptey shot a promo for Adidas, in which he returned to Larkspur and supplied the club with new kits.
"Grassroots football definitely shaped me into the player I am today," he says in the clip that was shown on Sky Sports.
Durrant is proud of the part he played in Lamptey's journey in becoming a Premier League star.
"If I'm ever telling anyone a story, I can always say that one of my players used to play for Chelsea, now plays at Brighton and has represented England at youth level," he said.
"It's a feather in the cap of Larkspur's cap and the coaches here, and we're really proud of him.
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"He's a great lad with a first class attitude. I remember in the first lockdown we had last year I was walking with my dog, I looked up and saw Tariq running with his brother and we waved at one another.
"It was funny to see him as a Premier League player just jogging around Northolt to keep fit.
"That shows what kind of a guy he is and how determined he is to succeed. He's not afraid to put in that extra bit of work to push himself further and is a model pro."
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