So, I'll skip right to the end and it will come as no surprise that I didn't make it as a professional footballer.
I have always had a love to play football, more so than watching the beautiful game. Like most it all started from a young age, kicking a ball in the garden with my father, when you come to think of it, it's a really cheap way to have fun, all you need is a football. I think the first photo of me is in a knock-off Spain kit but from there onwards I had every England kit available until the price went astronomical.
The second nonsurprise of this little blog, I was relatively small as a child, saying that I spent my junior years playing a couple of years up in the school team. Then along came along a couple of years of playing for the academy at Leeds United, I think I was scouted at a tournament and was super excited when invited to go trial. The training was Tuesdays and Thursdays in Worksop for the lads south of Sheffield and Sundays for home games at their state-of-the-art Thorpe Arch facility. We had a great coach Nick Marshall who later joined Nottingham Forest and became a key figure in their youth development.
I learnt a lot technically from my years there but never quite felt part of the team at Leeds, I have one memory of a game away and we had to meet at Elland Road to get the team coach to the game, I was on trial and was the only player without all the gear, it's not easy sitting on a coach and all the lads had their initials on their chest. From 9 yrs old travelling 3 times a week (thanks parents) in the year I was heading to Comprehensive School I made the decision to make the switch to Forest and follow the coach that summer.
At the start we trained at a makeshift setup out of Bingham Leisure Centre along with all ages up to U16, we spent the summers near Nottingham Tennis Centre where we would take on our European counterparts including the likes of Ajax and Borussia. I have fond memories of warm summers playing the Irish lads who were part of the NFFC program and were brought over for 6 weeks.
During all this time I want to say somehow my parents managed to juggle everything so that I could still play football at the weekends with my friends at the local team Hucknall Sports. This was a saviour in staying grounded and social, I believe now the professional clubs encourage this as they appreciate the benefits of playing with friends.
Towards the end of my time in the youth setup at NFFC I realised that my confidence and self-belief in my ability were holding me back on big game days resulting in more game nerves. This was the start of the end of my time in a professional setup. I was later released on the grounds of being small and not suiting the type of player they were looking for, at the time this felt cruel as my height was out of my hands. Years later I realised this was just a polite way of saying you're not good enough to avoid dashing a boy's dreams.
For the best part of 7 years, I played intensively for 6 days a week and I had become tired of all the commuting and having to perform at the highest level. From this time, I just continued playing with friends and dipping my toe into the adult Saturday and Sunday teams at 15, for me, I think I fell out of the development team at the right time.
I refound my love for the game and would play 5aside every night where possible, I still play today but often wonder how many of those that didn't make it fell out of love with the game. Of all the players I actually played with, to my knowledge only one played in the premier league and I was with him in the county team.
That looks like the legend that was Mr Holl!! Great story.
Proper tricky winger! Pleasure playing alongside you for a couple of years Wally lad! Well when i wasn’t making us late and getting us both dropped :-)
An emotional read 💙
Was lucky enough to watch Wally a good few years grace the famous Linby Colliery Red 👍
Great blogg matey love when you say when you were small 🤔