“I know that I'm good enough to play professionally at the top level because I believe in my own ability. Whether it means I stay in the US or go to another country, I will make it happen.”
Name: Jack Atkinson
Role: Central Midfielder
Previous clubs: Leeds United, Barnsley, Guiseley AFC
Current club: Toledo Villa FC
After spells with different youth teams in Yorkshire, Jack Atkinson recently took the decision to move to the States and go to college there whilst hoping to open new opportunities in football. Now playing for Toledo Villa in Ohio, Jack is delighted his bold move has been rewarded in a relatively short space of time.
“Before moving to college in the States, I played for Guiseley AFC who played in the National League. There I played for the U19's and U21's and after impressive displays I earned myself a game for the first team in a friendly during a pre-season campaign as an 18-year-old. Prior to Guiseley, I played for professional teams such as Leeds United and Barnsley for a total of 6 years.
The process to get to my college in the US was not easy, but definitely worth the hard work. However, I had the guidance from my agent at Future Elite Sports who helped me through the process and give me the opportunity to receive offers from many colleges across the US.”
Countless Television series’ would give you an impression of what college would be like in America and Jack admits that one or two stereotypes have come to fruition but nevertheless it’s great for him to experience life on the other side of the world.
“Life as a Brit at college is very fun. Obviously the American stereotype that they love our accents is true. It seems like I receive unnecessary attention sometimes just because of the way I speak. But it's great to just experience a new culture in a different continent of the world as I have seen many big cities and experienced the best time of my life since I have been in the States.”
Atkinson balances his college work, with his college football as well as playing for Toledo Villa. For the latter he can just play for in the summer whilst focusing on his college studies and football during the term. This had provided him with a chance to play football all year round which will prove to be hugely beneficial for his long-term progress.
“I recently signed for TVFC after having a great Freshman year for my college. I started every game for the University of Findlay and gained attention from my performances. This led to me being offered a roster spot playing for Toledo Villa FC during the summer which is a great personal achievement for myself in my Freshman year.”
The dream still remains for Jack to become a professional footballer and with many young British players moving abroad in recent times he has every reason to believe he can achieve his goal. British youngsters are being spotted by scouts from all over the world now and given chances. You only have to look at the Bundesliga to see Ademola Lookman, Jadon Sancho, Kaylen Hinds and Reece Oxford amongst others being given opportunities when chances in England seemed slim.
Others in America to have flourished are Jack Harrison who after being released by Manchester United was given a chance at New York City before moving to Manchester City in January. Of course, Bradley Wright-Phillips’ career has turned out alright in the MLS though. However, one of Atkinson’s idols growing up is a player who ended his career in America rather than starting there.
“When I was younger I loved watching Steven Gerrard play. I always wanted to be like him. But as a centre defensive midfielder, I also loved watching the likes of Xavi Alonso and Sergio Busquets play and tried to model my game so that I could just be like them.
After college, I want to be a professional footballer. It had always been my dream and it still is. I don't think that I'm being unrealistic with myself either as I know that I'm good enough to play professionally at the top level because I believe in my own ability. Whether it means I stay in the US or go to another country, I will make it happen."
Jack would like to return home one day in the hope of playing in the Premier League and also to rekindle his love of Sunday Roast’s something that you can’t really get in USA. However, he’s happy to make the sacrifices at this stage and is determined to take his career as far as possible.
“Being abroad, I miss home cooked dinners, like a Sunday roast. But it doesn't get on my mind too much. I obviously miss my family back home but if I want to make my dream a reality, I have to make these sacrifices for the time being until I get my reward at the end.
There's a possibility that I could come back home to play one day, and hopefully when I do it will be at the highest level in the Premier League. I would love for that to happen, but right now I'm concentrating on what’s in front of me and I've got to put in the hard work now to get to that point.”
The midfielder is grateful for the opportunity he has in USA and hopes to make his former clubs regret it later in his career. He believes a lot of talent slips through the net in Britain and that’s not necessarily down to the individuals themselves.
“I wouldn't say that it's wrong that we have to look to the USA to get another chance at playing at a good level as there is plenty of opportunity back home. However, back in England, it's a game of who you know and being in the right place at the right time. A lot of hidden talent slips through the net each year so looking to the US after that gives those people like me a chance to prove people wrong back home who doubted us. And maybe one day, it will come back to haunt these clubs that didn't believe in our abilities, which in my case is Leeds United, Barnsley FC and Guiseley AFC.”