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Under-18s

Greenwood – At 16, I thought it was too late

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

At the age of 16, Ben Greenwood thought “it was too late” to make a career out of professional football.

Born in Frimley and raised in Aldershot, Greenwood tried to get himself game time in men’s football by joining local non-league club Fleet Spurs.

However, soon after, he got opportunities to play for his county and was offered a trial at Chelsea. It was then he realised "maybe it wasn’t too late".

The young defender got rejected by Chelsea but soon picked up trials at both Watford and Arsenal, however, was let go by both clubs.

Although, in a turn of events, he was offered a one-week trial with the Cherries at the start of 2019.

And less than a year later at only 17, Greenwood has just earned his first cap for the Republic of Ireland under-19s and plays regularly in Alan Connell’s successful AFC Bournemouth under-18s.

Speaking to afcb.co.uk, Greenwood said: "It’s all happened so quickly and the people I’ve been around have helped me through it.

"I’ve had a good week and had a friendly against Denmark who were a big, physical side which is a different challenge.

"I featured for the whole 90 minutes and thought I played well and was quite solid. I had good feedback from the coaches and I’m hoping that it could lead to a call-up to the qualifiers next month.

"Going into the team, some of the players may have thought there was competition coming in, but they all made me feel so welcome and made it easy for me, helping me feel quite relaxed."

Going back 12 months, making an international debut was never going to cross Greenwood’s mind.

Having no club or academy side proved to be difficult for him but it never limited his possibilities.

He said: "I always had the mentality that if you were in an academy from a young age, it would help you a lot more to progress and I hadn’t been in an academy.

"My approach was to find the best non-league football around where I lived that balanced out around playing with my mates as well.

"Fleet Spurs was where everyone was going, it was the best place for me by exposing myself to men’s football.

"It helped me get used to the physicality of games and playing with more experienced older players as well."

Soon after joining the non-league club, opportunities started falling the youngster’s way and the reality was becoming slightly clearer.

"I thought 16 was too late but once I got opportunities playing for my county and getting a trial at Chelsea, it made me realise maybe it wasn’t too late.

"My trial for Chelsea lasted eight weeks before being let go. I didn’t get too affected knowing it was only my first trial. I was disappointed to be let go but I knew there was other opportunities for me.

"The trials at Watford and Arsenal I found quite draining. I was missing college a lot and called in sick for work a few times because I had to go to these trials.

"I came to Bournemouth and thought, this has to be the one. It’s a nice place to live and during the trials I made some good friends with the lads and I was happy in my digs.

"It all fell into place and, thankfully, I got chosen to be kept on and I’m loving it here now."

Unfortunately for Greenwood, it didn’t all go to plan because during his trial, he picked up a knee injury in a fixture against Yeovil Town.

He added: "My injury was the first major one I’ve had. It was frustrating because I’d heard the news that I was going to sign.

"I got injured in March and was out for several months. I just wanted to get my debut done and start playing games.

"I wasn’t able to play a game until pre-season. I was coming in for a month or two for rehab. When everyone was off, I came in two or three days a week just to get my fitness up.

"I had to sacrifice a lot of my off time to come here and work with Christian Saydee who was also injured at the same time."

Since returning from injury, Greenwood played in pre-season and even got the chance to train with the first team which meant a lot to the young player.

The left-back has now become a key member of Connell’s in-form under-18s and hopes to feature when they travel to Bristol Rovers in the EFL Youth Alliance on Saturday.

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