Part 1: How football got serious for me
Moving back and forth between England and the USA consistently throughout my life greatly affected my interaction with football. Football in England is the pinnacle, in a country where one sport is the lifeblood and so culturally ingrained that almost ever kid you meet wants to play football, it was always tough. On the other side I also played club soccer in America at a young age and it was nothing compared to what it is now, no MLS academies or youth pipelines no real scouting network for big clubs in America because the game itself was still growing soccer was still a novelty, only a handful of club teams produced real soccer talent. A few of which I was lucky to play for was who at the time were the best in the country.
That’s when soccer got serious for me, playing club in America and attending regional, district and state camps and getting noticed. I would travel back to England every summer to visit family and while I was home I would attend summer camps put on by professional clubs. One year I attended I received top honors at the camp and would eventually get invited to come trial and earn a spot at the academy. At the same time while at a camp months later in America I was invited to go to the Netherlands for an identification camp . These are things that never crossed my mind, as a young kid I just wanted to play football. It didn’t matter where. My family ties brought to England to pursue football there. While I was a good player, I wasn’t nearly good enough or was too small and weak for what scouts were looking for. I bounced around and was let go from multiple academies, had failed trials and missed opportunities, something that walks hand in hand with the dream of being a footballer. I ended up playing on Sunday league teams, eventually playing for non-league teams still trying to be involved in the game in some way. I would be perform well enough to earn consistent call-ups for county football squads which was a big honor for me at the time.
It was a constant internal mental struggle that almost all footballers trying to make it go through. Up and down moments of knowing and waiting for your break to move up the ranks and make it professionally. Paired with just as many moments of doubting yourself and questioning whether it was meant for me or if I really wasn't good enough to make a living out of this. This stuff wouldn't creep onto the field, that was the least stressful part just being able to go out and play. It was the long bus rides home, or the silent car rides back with dad after a woeful performance wondering if all this effort was worth it.
A second chance came along, one inspired by a friend to try and get a college scholarship in America through a service PASS4SOCCER which held games and trials in the UK for college coaches to come watch, I was skeptical coming from England about the level of play and how serious does America take soccer but at the same time the possibility to get a 4-year degree fully paid while playing soccer was something I couldn’t pass up. I think going to play in America and knowing another shot at being a professional was a possibility it renewed what I once thought was long gone. College soccer is a different animal to most soccer around the world, the different rules, the season length and timing as well as the increased importance placed on athleticism rather than football knowledge. This transition was new to me, especially at a time when football was transformed into a serious matter instead of a part-time sport overnight. I really struggled my first couple years in college soccer, the intense fitness, the daily gym routines at some points I forgot I was a footballer and thought I was training to be a cross-country runner or a weight lifter. I had never done any of this in England it was just football football football, go out with mates and kick around in the park. I knew I wanted to be a pro and I knew I could be but I would encounter make or break moments and discover a lot about myself. The things I would learn I would carry those until this day and I would think almost all professional players have vital learning moments in their careers that they also live by. By the end of my 3 and 1/2 college career I had learned some valuable lessons about myself and the game I love as well as earned some decent college soccer honors and built a good reputation for myself as a player and I had given myself the opportunity to become a professional through the MLS draft.