Becoming a professional footballer is the dream of most youngsters. Hours on end spent playing for a local team, having a kick around in the local park or school playground with friends are accompanied by even more hours of dreaming of scoring goals for their favourite team. Unfortunately for most, this dream quickly fizzles out by the teenage years as the realism that they will have to settle for a place in the stands or the shirt of a pub team hits hard. For some boys there are opportunities at the youth academies of professional teams. These youngsters are the ones who not only dream of making a footballing career but actually believe in a footballing career. Growing up being better than the majority of youngsters their age, wearing the strip of a well known team and receiving coaching from qualified coaches serves to provide no sense of realism as to the magnitude of the task ahead of them. Their dream of becoming a professional footballer is not easy and takes a lot more than talent, a lot more than hard work too, it requires a lot of luck.
At the age of 16 and upon leaving high school, many youngsters are released from professional clubs and can move on with their life in education or employment having lost nothing, their peers are also leaving school to the next chapters of their life. So many youngsters leave at this age due to the fact that clubs no longer require a full team for each age group and instead mix up players from a range of teenage years. Also, at 17 years of age the physical development of most boys is nearing completion so those that have not developed the correct attributes of height, weight, strength and speed may be identified. Perhaps more importantly, the significant years of rapid development in players footballing skills and footballing intelligence have passed and so it may be clear which players will not develop to the required standard of the professional game.
Those youngsters who are lucky enough to earn a contract with a professional club at the age of 16, the equivalent of an apprentership are within touching distance of their dream. Over the two years of their contract they have the chance to move towards reserve and even first team football and look to earn themselves their first professional contract. At this level though the margins between success and failure increase dramatically. All opposition are good players and have the same hunger and passion to succeed, therefore only the top quartile of players will impress significantly enough to be given a chance. For those that are not given a chance then the realism of not making a career in football hits hardest. Leaving their clubs in their late teens or early twenties means they have little or no education behind them and are late entering the world of employment, for these boys to have been so close to their dream and to have had it snatched away at a young age is extremely tough and can take some recovering from.