Rowan Liburd became Stevenage’s third summer arrival yesterday when he signed from Reading for a five-figure fee.
Speaking at Bragbury End, the 6’ 3” striker told us about his journey from Sunday League football through to the professional game and gave us a glimpse of what Stevenage fans can expect of him this season.
After growing up playing Sunday League football in London, Rowan moved out to the United States aged 18 to study on a football scholarship at Thomas University in Georgia. During his four years out there he certainly impressed, scoring 44 goals in 73 games for the Night Hawk soccer team and picking up a number of college and university football’s top awards. Twice he was named NAIA Honorable Mention All-American and he also won Sun Conference Player of the Year and the Offensive Player of the Year award in 2013.
Rowan told us, “America was good for me and I really enjoyed my time there. I was playing football regularly and I got my education as well which was important to me.”
Rowan with his Sun Conference Player of the Year Trophy. Photo: Croydon Advertiser
On his return to the UK, Rowan signed for non-league Billericay Town and enjoyed a prolific season in front of goal. He notched 22 goals during the campaign, which was even more impressive when you consider they were all scored within a five-month period.
He continued, “I did well at Billericay. It was my first senior team but all the experienced players there helped me through and I really enjoyed working with the coaching staff. I did break my hand and I was out until November, but kicked on from there.”
Rowan celebrating another Billericay Town goal. Photo: Non League Paper
Rowan’s form attracted the interest of Reading and after impressing on trial and scoring twice in a friendly game, he was snapped up by the Championship side with then-Royals manager Steve Clarke saying they were "lucky to land" the talented striker.
Last season Rowan scored 11 goals in 14 games for the Royals’ Under-21 squad and would later go on to make his professional debut from the bench in November 2015.
“At Reading I played most of my games for the Under-21s as they wanted to see how I developed. I then made my professional debut against Cardiff which was surreal as there were so many fans and it was my first time playing in front of a big crowd. Everyone at Reading, especially the Under-21 manager Martin Kuhl, helped me out so I have to say a big thank you to them.”
His impressive form at the Madesjski, combined with a loan spell at Wycombe where he caused havoc against Boro on his home debut back in March, saw Stevenage moved for the striker this summer and he said the move made sense.
“When I thought about it the manager wanted me to come here, I wanted to play professional football in a first team environment and Stevenage were offering me that opportunity. It’s all worked out well, I’m happy to be playing in the EFL and I hope to keep developing.”
Describing himself as “a big guy that likes to run in behind, give defenders a hard time and score goals”, Rowan hopes to feature in this weekend’s opening pre-season friendly at St Albans.
“Hopefully I’ll get some minutes on Saturday although that’s up to the gaffer. I’ve done some training at Reading already this season but I’m here now, I’ll train properly for the first time on Wednesday and go from there.
"The setup is really good here. It’s a good environment to come in, train and better yourself, which is what I want to do.”