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At such a young age, I experienced a lot of defeat - by A.H.

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'N' Level student-inmate from institution TM1

Consolation Prize

When I started my life as a footballer, I never thought I would wind up as a footballer at Manchester United. When you look at a successful person, you cannot imagine that they’ve ever failed or had a brush with failure. I think of myself as a successful person but I will never forget my journey towards becoming a professional football player.

At the age of 16 years old, I played for an academy club called Aberdeen. During my first match, I got into the starting line up and I was a happy kid when I found out I was going to start the match. I played as a goalkeeper and it turned out to be the worst day of my life. My team lost 4-0 to Arsenal football academy club. It was the worst football game I played and the whole team was gutted. At such a young age I experienced a lot of defeat.

My coach at Aberdeen once told me to always be proud of whatever we do and no matter what the circumstances, always have hope even though you are at the losing end. Even though I was a maverick, I was like a lost child on the field that got a weekly hammering from strikers who have been ordered to make my life miserable. All I thought about was survival. I just thought to myself. ‘I’m not going to fail here.’ It was one of those things that drove me. I always had that fear of getting humiliated, and failure was always that wee thing at the back of my mind. I kept silently saying to myself, ‘Hope. Don’t fail if you have hope.’

Eventually as time went by, I had a hunch that I would do well when I was at Aberdeen academy. In every game I played, I improved my skills on the field and my coach saw something in me. It was the enormous talent I have with my reflexes and the bravery in me. My performance impressed not only him but also a scout from Manchester United academy. It was my last year at Aberdeen that I started mapping out a path for my future. Prior to that I was just concentrating on surviving and not failing.

I signed my first professional contract at Manchester United when I was 18 and the rest was history. This moment will always loom large in my collective memories. Thanks to the work of my former coach, Eric Steele, and others as I’m now among the very best keepers in the world.

Throughout my successful football career, I have learned that you don’t get the best out of people by hitting them with an iron rod. Instead only you, yourself can determine your own future. Have pride in everything you do and always have hope even if you are at the lowest. Importantly, never give up, because for me, the only time to give up is when you are dead.

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