It’s not hard to see one of reasons which tempts players to sign for IF Vestri in Iceland. The stunning surroundings of the club’s Olísvöllurinn stadium are absolutely breathtaking and unlike any other ground in the world. Based in the town of Ísafjörður in the northwest of the country, the pitch is set to an incredible backdrop which needs to be seen to be believed.
Alongside the remarkable setting goes the fact that the area that the stadium is set in is relatively isolated from the rest of the country due to its location on the island. Yet despite that, the third-tier club currently has five English players. One of those is former Manchester United youngster Josh Signey. The midfielder came to Iceland via a spell out in the States playing college soccer at NCAA Division I school Campbell University in North Carolina. He is now one of Vestri’s star players as they hunt for promotion to the second-tier.
The 22-year-old spent eight years growing up in the Manchester United academy before spending a couple of years on the books at Morecambe. Ever since then he’s been doing his thing abroad.
At Vestri he’s linked up with fellow Englishmen Daniel Osafo-Badu, a veteran of Icelandic game having been on the island since 2010, former Newcastle youngster Aaron Spear who has also played in Sweden, ex-Reading youngster Hammed Lawal, and Brentton Muhammed who is from London but is an Antigua & Barbuda international.
Halfway through the 2. Delid season and Vestri are currently in third place with only the top two clubs being promoted. Signey has three goals in ten league games so far this season to add to the four in twelve he scored last year.
I got the chance to ask Josh a few questions about his career so far including what it was like to be with United growing up, moving to the States and living in Iceland.
English Players Abroad: Growing up in the Manchester United academy must have been an amazing experience, what are you fondest memories of that time?
Josh Signey: It was a very special time for me, I was involved from the ages of 6-16, and I developed a lot as a player and a person. Being able to compete in tournaments against Europe’s top teams was amazing. I played with many great players, who have gone on to be superstars. Now being able to look back, the club offers a fantastic environment to grow up and learn the game. It did break me being released at 16 and I did lose the love for the game however I would not change anything. I loved the time I spent with the club but, as a youngster, I perhaps took it for granted.
EPA: You then had a spell with Morecambe, were you hoping to break into the first team there?
JS: At the tender ages of 16-18, I think that the dream is certainly to play first team football as quickly as possible. I enjoyed my time there, we had a great team and a great coach that helped us look into different avenues. I had not gone there with football at the forefront, I was still out of love with football. I was struggling physically, I was still only 5ft 6 and hadn’t started maturing physically. My intention though had always been to go to America and get a degree.
EPA: Then came the chance to undertake a soccer scholarship, what convinced you to give that shot and did you enjoy your time there?
JS: I knew a few people that went over to America, and they had nothing but positive things to say about it. The opportunity to get a degree whilst playing football at a good standard was something that was too hard to turn down. I had the best four years of my life out there. I settled in well out there. In my first year as a freshman I made the Freshman 100 (list of highest ranked college soccer players) and won some accolades within the region.
During my first summer I was also invited to play for FC Florida. We won the state, regionals and made it through to the national final. During my down time in my 3rd year I was offered the chance to go to Iceland for 3 months and play for Vestri. It’s here that I found the love for football again. I then came back to the USA with a spring in my step, and in our final year we became Conference champions. I was able to come away from there with many new friends, a business degree, and a professional contract in Iceland. I developed and matured a lot as a person during that time and the life lessons it gave me were crucial.
EPA: How did the move back to Vestri then come about and what made you make the move there? The stunning setting surely helped!
JS: During my final weeks at Campbell University, there was some interest from a couple of clubs, however I felt that I owed something to Vestri. I didn’t want to leave previously, but I had to finish my degree. We were top of the league and the team morale was fantastic. The team unfortunately missed out on promotion by one point – so when it came down to it, I felt I owed it to Vestri.
EPA: How have you settled in Iceland? Has it helped having several other English players at the club?
JS: Yes, it was easy to settle in. The boys were very welcoming, and it is especially easier having other English lads there. I live with 3 of the English boys, so there is plenty of banter flying around.
EPA: What do you get up to in your spare time in Iceland? Do you have to work alongside playing?
JS: I decided to come over early in January to get settled in properly. I got myself a day job at that time, and i have kept with it ever since. It is optional to work, but most of the lads do so to fill up the days around training.
EPA: What do you think of the standard of the 2. Delid?
JS:The standard of the League is very good. It is extremely competitive, and the games are all hard fought.
EPA: Finally, what are your ambitions for the future? Do you want to make your way further up the leagues?
JS: I would love to play in the Pepsi, here in Iceland [top flight]. My primary goal, however, is to use Football to travel the world, and develop new connections and experiences. I have already played in the USA and Iceland, so hopefully football can take me across the world.