As a young player trying to achieve a career in football can be a daunting experience and sadly involves rejection. When Academy prospect Nathan Freckleton was approached by a London based scout from Premier League champions Manchester City, his dreams of becoming a signed footballer seemed just that step closer. Nathan trialled for the blues of Manchester for numerous weeks and participated in many academy games against CAT 1 opponents and impressed the club staff on numerous occasions. After his trial had finished the decision to sign Nathan was hanging in the balance and unfortunately a contract wasn’t offered by the smallest of margins.
Word had spread that there was a fantastic prospect in Nathan, and he was an unsigned talent. Numerous of calls received by academy director Mark Smith who explained to us the intricacy of the next step. “It was a difficult time for me, Nathan and his family as we had to select where he should take his next step and time was unfortunately against us. I had received numerous calls from Crystal Palace, Fulham and Spurs all interested in looking at Nathan immediately. We wanted to ensure to next trial would be the correct fit for him.” The decision wasn’t taken lightly, and Nathan immediately started with Crystal Palace FC, where he trialled with the South London club for six weeks. The Eagles staff again seemed very impressed with Nathan‘s ability on the ball and when it came to decision time, it was between himself and another trialist for the last remaining scholarship in his position. Again, Nathan missed out by this slightest of margins and unfortunately due to the decision of joining Crystal Palace other doors had begun to close. There was no break for Nathan to reflect as again he was approached by League two outfit Colchester United FC. He committed himself again and started to trial with the club, making the long travel to the Essex side 3 times a week, often leading to very late nights.
During all of this, Nathan had the additional pressures from school and sitting exams, looking at options outside of football if he was going to be unsuccessful in gaining a scholarship at a professional club. After a few weeks it had become clear that maybe it was all too much and he started to feel the pressure, not enjoying his football the decision was made to remove him from the club and his trial. After a few weeks break, Nathan seemed ready and raring to go again. A trial was organised for him at AFC Wimbledon, another South London side playing their first team football in League One. The maximum a player can be on trial with a professional club is 8 weeks, Nathan had now hit this limit and been training with the club for 2 months. A decision needed to be made on his future. “I remember taking a call from the club feeling very excited, they had made a decision that they needed to sign Nathan to see him more as his eight weeks limit had now been reached and they wanted to see him play the last 2 remaining fixtures of the season. I needed to get all the paperwork signed by him and his family and deliver it to the club by 5pm for him to play on the coming Saturday.”
Nathan had finally signed a professional contract and played the remaining fixtures of the season for AFC Wimbledon; however, his journey was far from over. The contract he signed was only until the end of the season and now the season had finished, AFC Wimbledon decided to not offer him a scholarship for the 2021-2022 season and release him.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it, we all thought he had finally done it and had secured himself a two- year contract as a scholar, for a professional football club. When I received the call, I didn’t know how to break this news to him and the family. He had been through so much over the last 12 months and worked so hard chasing his dream, I couldn’t help but think how much more rejection can this young man take”
The rejection had the opposite effect, and he was now again eager to prove to everybody he had what It took. He travelled back up north to Manchester, for a week’s trial with Salford City.
The owners of the League Two club are of course very well known, having huge and successful careers themselves. The names of the class of 92 will never be forgotten and Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes all now sat on the board at Salford City FC. A decision needed to be made quickly as preseason was fast approaching.
Finally, after all the rejection, trials, training and traveling, this young man from the South of London, was finally offered a two-year scholarship and a contract was signed.
Nathan has started his career very well at the Manchester club and we will follow his progress very closely. A young man with a dream and the ambition to match it, can be the inspiration to all younger players at our academy.