When Eelco Schattorie named his Kerala Blasters starting lineup for the season opener against ATK in Kochi, the supporters were in for a surprise. While everyone expected last season's most impressive player Sahal Abdul Samad to start, it was Jeakson Singh who slotted into the double pivot alongside Moustapha Gning.
The 18-year-old midfielder, who rose to fame when he headed in India's only goal at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, played 82 minutes before he was replaced by Sahal as Blasters cruised to an opening day win. The results have been bad since then but Jeakson has made the most of his chances and went on to start five matches out of the seven the team has played.
Jeakson has put in the most number of tackles at the club - 21 goals in five matches. He has been solid in midfield, even without a regular partner alongside him due to the team's injury concerns.
"I came in and I got chances to play, they believed in me. It has been really good," Jeakson told Goal. "It has given me more confidence. There are a lot of foreigners out there and I am getting chances. I didn't expect it to happen but I thought that if I can't fight for my chances with them, then why I am here. Luckily, I got chances and it has been very good for me."
To be a part of one of Indian football's most defining and famous moments isn't easy. Jeakson, however, is unconcerned about the tag of being the player who scored in the World Cup. He honed his skills at Indian Arrows before taking the step to sign for Indian Super League (ISL) club Kerala Blasters.
"I wasn't under any pressure after scoring the goal in the World Cup. I thought about improving the game. I wanted to go somewhere where I can get a chance to improve my game. We got experience from playing for Arrows and it was easier for me after that to play in the ISL.
"I learnt about my position and my role from my time at Indian Arrows and Minerva Punjab. I learnt a lot about football and personal life when I was in Arrows," the youngster said.
Jeakson is part of a young and talented set of upcoming players who are well versed with playing possession-based football. He was part of quite a few exposure tours set up by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as part of the preparations before the World Cup and it helped the youngsters learn how they can improve.
"We used to play against big teams. We need to improve a lot, especially with the ball. It is not about running a lot without the ball. We need to be composed with the ball. We learnt a lot during those tours. It is not as if there was a big difference between them and us, even we had the quality but sometimes we were scared to play with the ball. They are more comfortable with the ball."
It is safe to say that Jeakson has worked on his game and is now a better midfielder than he was when he leapt inside the box to score against Colombia U-17s. The Sergio Busquets fan, who declared his ambition to play for Real Madrid two years ago, is focused on helping Blasters pick up wins. With just six points from seven games, Eelco's team are in desperate need of good results. Jeakson believes success is around the corner and that he will continue to be part of the team as the season rolls on.
"The team is doing really well, those who are watching the games know that the team is performing well. We have lacked a bit of luck. We have to keep working hard. I am really confident about starting the games. I am really comfortable with my teammates and how we are playing now."