How to Become a Professional Footballer - From Ashill to Arsenal

By day he was a number crunching Executive Pensions Administrator. But at the weekend he turned into a fierce center forward with a left foot that could knock the head off a pin from 50 yards. I thought that would be a great superhero introduction to my new articles, which I have named from “Ashill to Arsenal”.

Ashill because that is where I grew up in Norfolk and Arsenal because it has a good ring to it. And if you need a connection, Arsenal was one of the last teams I ever played against before quitting my career as a professional footballer.

I started playing football for Ashill my local village team when I was just 12 years old. I soon outgrew the team scoring too many goals and although I enjoyed playing football with my friends it just wasn’t challenging enough. So I moved to Kings Lynn Football Club who played in the Beazer Homes Midland Division. It wasn’t a very dramatic move for me as I languished in the reserves for a season, not really making much of an impression.

I had just completed my Btec National Diploma in Leisure and Tourism studies at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology in Kings Lynn and was ready for a job in the real world. I couldn’t find the job I wanted and so I opted for the safe option that a lot of people take in Norfolk, working for the mighty Norwich Union. I became a Pensions Administrator, which involved pushing large volumes of paperwork around. I didn’t enjoy the work much but soon realized I had a love of computers, hence all my blogs (Escribbler and Belize Jungle Dome Blog) and websites ( and that now exist.

I was quickly promoted into the IT department where I fixed other peoples computer problems from inside of the Norwich Union Company. I enjoyed doing this but was still pursuing my football career. Which brings me back to Kings Lynn Football Club. The start of the new season at Kings Lynn heralded my head-spinning rise to the glory of Professional Football that followed in a short period of just 8 months. I played a few pre-season friendlies and was doing very well in the games, scoring goals and causing all kinds of mayhem on East Anglian defences.

I was also driving a ridiculous amount of miles in my Austin Maestro, leaving Ashill in the early morning to head East to Norwich for work. As we were on flexi time I would leave early on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could train with Kings Lynn. This meant a 25 mile drive east, followed by a 50 mile drive west to Kings Lynn, almost passing my house in Ashill on the way. A 2-hour training session and then a 25 mile drive east again to return home late in the evening. This was quite exhausting but I loved playing football and was happy enough to do the driving. Dad would often keep me company for which I am grateful. And he still goes to “The Walks” to follow the progress of Kings Lynn.

At this time I was not even thinking of a career as a football player. I never considered myself good enough although my performances were starting to get noticed by some bigger teams including Kettering Town in the Vauxhall Conference, or what is now known as the Nationwide Conference. I was also starting to experience the rather large egos that haunt the inside of dressing rooms up and down the country. Ex pros who seemed bitter at their rejections by Professional teams and who seemed to think they were still the best players in the world. I used to steer a very wide path around these guys, feeling uncomfortable in their company.

I was also approached by Norwich City who had watched me in a game for my local village team Ashill who I still enjoyed playing for occasionally. They invited me to Trowse training ground to take part in training sessions. I loved this but this was really stretching my time thin on the ground. Added to the training and games at Kings Lynn, plus working for Norwich Union, I was now trying to find time to train with Norwich City. Looking back I think if I had pursued this harder I could have got a contract with them. But I wasn’t 100% committed and I think they were a bit hesitant also.

None of this halted my progress as I continued to score goals and Kettering Town invited me for a training session. I didn’t even know where Kettering was but set off in the evening. I remember pulling up outside the stadium and being a bit overawed by the site of a large stand. I think the stadium held 4,000 + people but it was very professional and organized. I nervously walked into the dressing room. Of course no one even batted an eyelid and if I thought that the Kings Lynn dressing room was full of bruised egos, this place was 10X worse. Most of these players had all failed to make the professional game or were on the downward slope of their careers. But I did make some really good friends in my time at Kettering. And I did sign for them and had a terrific few months with the team as we topped the conference, piping even the infamous non-league outfit of Barnet and the animated character of Barry Fry.

Peter Morris the manager of Kettering called me the next day at my office at Norwich Union. He asked me if I wanted to sign for them and how much money do I want!!! Well that wasn’t an easy question to answer. But I have never had a problem asking for things but this was a little different. I had no frame of reference for this. Kings Lynn were feeding me tidbits of cash to pay for my travel expenses and I had no idea what to ask for. I wanted to go and play for the team but didn’t want to scare the manager by asking for too much. I mumbled £100 over the phone to which he replied ok and proceeded to give me the details of the next game and where/when I should turn up.


I under priced myself I thought. In hindsight I should have asked for more because this money only just covered my travel expenses. I was now having to drive 25 miles east in the morning for work, leave at 3.30 pm on a Tuesday and Thursday for training, followed by a 2 ½ drive to Kettering for a training session. Then after training a further 2 hour drive home. I used to get back to the house at midnight and would have to sit and watch TV for an hour because I was so wired from the driving. I was doing too much I thought.

So I made the decision to move to Norwich to cut down my traveling time. And that is where I wind up Part 1 of "from Ashill to Arsenal".

Part 2 coming soon

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