"There are less & less opportunities in England with the money & pressure. A great opportunity is for players to go abroad."
Name: Sam Riley
Previous clubs: Manchester United, Rochdale, Hyde United, Rio Grande (USA), Springfield Synergy (USA), Winsford United.
Current club: North Star (Australia)
Location: Brisbane, the capital of Queensland is home to more than 1 million people with more than 10% of those originating from the United Kingdom. Brisbane is regularly voted as one of the best places to visit and live in the world. The city hosted the 1982 Commonwealth Games, whilst Rugby League is the most popular sport with Brisbane Broncos having a strong fan base. Savage Garden were formed in the city in the 1990's.
It can become demoralising for a young footballer moving from club to club not really feeling as if you are being given a fair chance to show off your talent. In this country players can be dismissed at an early age for not being developed enough physically and you've only got to look at the likes of Jamie Vardy now to see that counts for little, when there is clear raw talent.
After starting in Manchester United's academy in his early teens, last year Sam Riley found himself playing for Winsford United but has since swapped playing on cold Tuesday nights for playing in the glorious conditions in Brisbane, Australia. This wasn't to be the first time Riley had played abroad after a spell in America previously.
“After playing in the USA for a year which was a great experience I wanted to try somewhere else. Australia was a place I really wanted to play someday and a few different agents were interested in me signing up for them but asked me to wait a year. Then my friend who I've played with in England down the years said that he could help me with the move. His name is Harry Noon and he's actually playing in the second division in Melbourne doing really well. He had a few clubs lined up for me and the manager of the first club I played for was good enough to let me stay at his place with my girlfriend until we found our own apartment.”
Riley has settled in with ease to his new club and that is in no small part down to the welcoming he has received from all areas of North Star FC.
“They have treated me extremely well since I've been here. We play at O'Callaghan Park which holds about 2,000 I think. I've played for a lot of clubs even though I'm only 22, and from the manager to the kit man to the chairman, everyone makes sure I'm looked after and have made me feel very comfortable here.”
Whilst Sam's last club in England was in the 9th tier, he now finds himself in the 3rd division in Australia which he believes just shows the quality and array of talent within England. It also is apparent that there is too much competition in England due to the fact clubs are all too quick to look abroad for new players rather than develop home grown players.
“I'd say the league I'm playing in is probably the equivalent to the Evo Stik Premier (7th tier). Which I think shows that England produces many good footballers. There are less & less opportunities in England with the money & pressure. Clubs want players to be fully developed by 16 and don't give them a chance. It's just not realistic. Their alternative is to either to take on the players who are fully developed physically who are normally not as gifted technically & eventually get dropped a couple years later. Or instead clubs will get players from abroad.”
However whilst chances in Britain may be few and far between Riley is encouraging footballers in a similar position to himself to take opportunities elsewhere. The forward combined playing football for Winsford United last year with working at the ticket office at Manchester United but now he can fully concentrate on his football in Australia.
“A great option for lads now is to go to America to do a football scholarship which I did myself and was a great experience. Also in Australia a lot of clubs pay very good wages and put up apartments for players, and on top of that you're living in an amazing country.”
Once Riley was accustomed to the climate in Australia he has found the teams play in a similar style to the English sides, so there wasn't too much adapting needed from 'The Pom'.
“The obvious difference is the heat. Having played in America this was something I was already accustomed to. Most teams you play against have English managers who put the English style & mentality into the clubs. A lot of teams do try and play good football. I'd say there's more quality back home but it's every much as intense and the speed of play is very similar.”
Despite missing his roots in Manchester, the 22-year-old is enjoying life in Australia, with a few other Englishman at the club and The Courteeners a frequent choice of music to remind him of home whilst relaxing on one of Brisbane's picturesque beaches.
“My manager is English and I've got a couple teammates that are English which makes it much more comfortable being so far away from home but you're with people who you can relate so many things with. They call us the "poms" !! Every team you play against there is normally one or two English lads.”
“I definitely miss playing on a Saturday at 3pm. It just makes your weekend, especially if you win and play well. Over here most games are 7pm on a Saturday which isn't ideal. I miss going to the pub to watch the football and obviously my family and friends. I think most of all I miss a full English breakfast from Wetherspoons!”
“There's so much to do in Brisbane all the time and people do seem generally more happy. But I must say my favourite thing is probably the beaches, they are absolutely stunning.”
Despite the success of his spell abroad, Sam Riley thinks he will return to club football in England, but right now he's enjoying life thanks to taking a chance to move abroad.
“Of course, one day I think I'll be back. It all depends on the circumstance. At the moment I'm making a living and enjoying living in an amazing country. But things can change. Whatever happens I've played in America and Australia so I know I won't have any regrets when I'm older, which I hope more lads follow the same route!”
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