(Semi-pro) Non-League Football in the UK
Moving abroad to play for a pro football club isn't always easy. The expectation in the mind of every player is that you are good enough. I believe there is nothing wrong with this positive mindset. But creating an opportunity or opportunities for yourself to trial and be better than a pro-academy player has proven to be difficult for many. In saying that, you're not good enough or you don't deserve the chance is not the case, but please remember there is players that are and have been at clubs from a very young age. Although, pro-clubs are always looking for the next new amazing talent, others are reluctant to do so because of club philosophy that is in place. Players often ask me after a game with a pro-club academy team, "Did they ask about any of us?" Usually not. Sometimes players need to be seen on many occasions because of, either the system the club has in place, the heads of recruitment or scouts aren't watching, the academy director is not watching, or for whatever reasons even if we have a win. Every club has a process and it varies between different clubs.
So, what are the alternatives? In my personal opinion, potentially signing with a non-league club is the next best option. I say this for many reasons, but ultimately for playing and training and establishing yourself as a player in the system. But, yes it's not at the level you feel you deserve? I understand it is difficult and can feel like a down grade from playing top tier football in Australia or Canada , etc.
Just yesterday I was on a video conference call with many people involved with football and the guest speaker was Terry McFlynn ex Sydney fc player coach who played with likes of Alessandro Del Piero then moving to Perth Glory. Terry shared his views on many things, including how the system needs to be fixed in Australia, what its been like as a pro-footballer in Australia, coaching in the academy at Perth glory etc. He also mentioned about his football career in the UK. Terry was at a Championship club QPR for may seasons and unfortunately they were relegated. Terry got released and ended up playing at a conference club. He was just happy to be playing football. So, from a pro club to a semi-pro club due to the circumstances that he had to deal with. Did this stop him? No it didn't. A couple of season at a conference club gave him the experience he needed to continue his career and gain the confidence, maturity, desire and many other factors needed to climb back up to pro-club stature. Non-League (semi-pro) football is massive in the UK and many times whilst i watch fixtures i scratch my head with some of the talent, wondering why certain players aren't at pro-clubs.
Everyones journey is different whilst facing different circumstances and battles. Establishing yourself as a player in the UK as a foreigner is very important. This allows you to not only play football, but to gauge yourself every game or training session and improving accordingly but pushing yourself without any pressure. Remember, we play the game because we enjoy it. I've watched many semi-pro clubs at youth and senior levels actually beat pro-clubs during cup games and hats off to them for their efforts on the day. It's a beautiful game and we all have different roles in the sport. Strong mindset is very important to deal with ups and downs and challenges you will face during your time as a footballer.
In my honest opinion, non-league football is a fantastic start to create a foot-hold into football in the UK as a foreigner and gain as much as you can from the culture, the leagues and cups your involved in whilst learning more about yourself being out of your comfort zone and away from home. I urge players to be humble, positive, reflective whilst taking advantage of what every opportunity brings as this I believe is a winning formula for success in the years to come.
Stay Safe and thanks for reading.