To this day, being given the opportunity to be within a Premier League Club for a short time is a memory I am going to hold very close to me. It’s amazing how much you can learn about football in such a short time by being surrounded by some of the best athletes and professionals in the business.
I arrived in England at the end of June, not know what I had in store for myself. I had a couple of trials that were being arranged through the help of my agents, but nothing had been secured when I had arrived. At the time I had a lot of mix emotions and feelings. Being in one of the biggest cities in the world alone was overwhelming, let alone not know where I was heading across the country. I was staying with my agent in West London at the time, passing time by staying fit and waiting for the signal and a trial to be confirmed. I had the chance of training at Bromley Football Club in south-east London to stay fit and stay on top of my skills. After a week had passed, I had gotten the green light and I was on my way to my first trial and Premier League side Watford Hornets Football Club.
At this point, all I could think about was what I was going to see, feel and the people I was going to meet. But was also focused on the job I had to do, and that was to do my best and work towards getting a contract. I was in the zone, traveling to north-west London, trying to mentally prepare myself for what was in store for me knowing that I had arrived in the English pre-season, and it was exactly what I expected it to be, and some more…
I was staying about a 10-minute walk away from the training ground in a Holiday Inn hotel. It was a great set up for myself, the shops and training facilities were close by which was helpful because then I didn’t have to stress about the travel and being late. I had everything I needed to be prepared physically and mentally for the time I was going to spend here at Watford FC.
I always knew that on a day like this I would be nervous, but it was a feeling that I hadn’t had before. I didn’t know at the time but thinking back I was just as simple and creating thoughts in my mind, questioning the little things. But I knew deep down that I was ready and cut out for a challenge like the one I was about to face. Arriving at the training ground way before I should have been there is always something I do. I never wanted to be that one person that didn’t get the message and look bad. But arriving early allowed me to meet the coaching staff, and got the chance to meet the first team and reserve players as they arrived one by one. Every morning there was a set time each player had to be in the café having breakfast. These facilities from my first impression were something I had never seen before. I felt like a boy in a playground with what the club had to offer and the setup. After meeting all the players and heading to the changerooms and getting ready it was time for business and have my first training session with the reserve team.
I am somebody that forgets what I am capable of and look at others and feel a little doubtful, but at the end of the day, now I have learned we are all human and are capable of doing the same thing no matter where we come from. Straight of the bat, first session, all we did was small sided games and running. I thought I had experienced fatigue and pain, but after my first session, that is when I knew that this was going to be a mental challenge as much as it was a physical challenge. After training every day it was time to recharge and prepare for the second session whether that was back out on the field or in the gym.
After an intense week of running and training, it was time for the first game of pre-season and it was against Wealdstone FC. Being told the night before I was starting was a great feeling knowing that after a hard week of work I had the chance to show what I was capable of doing in a match. I played 60 minutes of the match before being substituted for another trialist, I knew that competition for a position was high but I was happy with what I showed playing. After the game, the coach pulled me aside, for no longer than 20 seconds and its always in moments like this you feel your stomach sink not knowing what he would have to say. Remembering word for word what he said: “I’ll see you on Monday for week two of pre-season”. And that’s where he left it, but that’s all I need to hear knowing they wanted to see more of me and what I had to offer.
Week 2. Walking to training in my second week of the trial I was more relaxed knowing I was up for the challenge and capable of competing for a position in the reserve team. Like I mention before I have a thing for getting to training early just to be sure, but little did I know that getting to training early would mean I would have Troy Deeney sit down with me and ask where I am from and having a talk with him before other players began to arrive. Mentally as a younger player being approached by and spoken to by a true professional like him is something I look back on and feel grateful for having that chance and taking what he spoke about in the conversation both football and non-football and using that to keep on improving still today and for years to come. It was another intense week which was led by the U23’s coach Hayden Mullins and the strength and conditioning coach Lee Morgan. They had us running so hard it made a lot of us boys feel sick, but in a single week I was feeling fitter and stronger than I ever had felt. Things only got better as the week went on. I began getting lifts from Younes Kaboul who was also staying at the hotel at the time. So the experience of being with somebody that is playing at the highest level possible and getting some tips about the game from them for me was a massive opportunity and an experience I will remember for a long time to come.
Coming to the end of the trial, the coach had arranged meetings with every player at a certain time after training including myself. Once again I got that feeling in my stomach not knowing what the decision or discussion would be about, but I was confident with how I had trained and played in the short time I had spent there. Approaching the building where the meetings were being held, I had never been more eager yet scared going into a meeting. After talking a little while about myself and the coach asking a bit about myself it got down to business and the final decision of what my future was. This was something that I look back on and think about, knowing that everything happens for a reason and still to this day trust in the process of where I am and heading. He said to me plain and simply that they would not be signing me. The devastation I felt in that exact moment was the hardest I had been hit. But the thing which I appreciated and am thankful for is that after the decision had been made, Hayden Mullins the coach had sat and spoken with me for some time about continuing to chase my goals and telling me that I am more than capable of playing at whatever level I want if I continue with the desire and attitude I had during my two and a half weeks of being there.
Returning to the hotel, packing my back and heading back to west London, like arriving the first day I had mixed emotions and feelings. I felt the exact same leaving, but being grateful for what I had learned during my time of being at Watford Football Club.
It was always a dream of mine to be a part of a club like this, even if it was only a trial. It is something I will cherish forever and continue to work toward and maybe one day return to. I am grateful for how my journey had begun in England and it was only the start of more to come. That leads me to where I ended up, Millwall.