Last season Ryan Sellers was appearing for Wingate & Finchley in the Ryman Premier. Now he trains with players from across the world and is hoping to carve out a career in professional football.
The 19-year-old defender, from Mill Hill, was one of six youngsters from around the globe to win a place at the Nike Academy in November.
The Academy is a full-time, professional standard training programme run by Nike. It is based at St George’s Park – the FA’s national football centre – and teams compete against professional club’s Under-21 squads.
It is a far cry from Wingate’s Harry Abrahams Stadium but Sellers says he loved his time with the club and was grateful to the Blues for giving him a chance after he left Barnet.
He explained: “I was playing for Wingate when I was younger but when I was 16 I went to Barnet and was in the college scheme. During that time I played really well and moved up into the youth team.
“Unfortunately I didn’t get a deal but I had been playing week in, week out with the youth team for around six months.
“Then I wasn’t playing regularly so I asked the coaches if I could leave which they agreed to.”
He continued: “On that day I called Wingate’s chairman Aaron Sharpe and he was very understanding and welcomed me back to Wingate with open arms.
“I loved it there and I have made friends for life at the club. It was a great experience and I am still in contact with people at the Wingate.
“As much as I’d love to go back I want to progress with the Academy. But there is no doubt that Wingate is a club that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Sharpe praised Sellers’ hard work and feels the defender is now gaining the “just rewards” he deserves.
The Wingate chairman added: “We are all very happy for him. He enjoyed playing for Wingate and we enjoyed having him at the club.
"We have a very good set-up here for younger players and we give them a soft landing when they leave other clubs.
"Ryan deserves the credit though, and I think he will go on and achieve his potential.”
Sellers admits he didn’t expect to secure a place in the Academy but feels his dedication has been rewarded.
He is enjoying playing with young footballers from around the globe and believes they are learning from each other.
He explained: “There are some great players in the side.
“We have a few Italians and Spaniards who are more technical on the ball and can read the game very well.
“They play quickly and want to pass it around, so it is a very different style to the Ryman Premier but I think we are learning from each other.
“I have adapted to it and I am getting used to playing shorter passing and quicker in possession.”
Sellers’ next aim is joining a professional side. He admits it will not be easy to earn a pro deal but believes he would be “comfortable” competing in League 1 or League 2.
He said: “Playing in the Football League is my realistic target. “I have got full confidence in myself and believe I can achieve the goals I have. I want to play at the highest level I can, whether that is playing in League 2 or League 1.
“I feel I would be comfortable playing in those leagues. So it is just a matter of getting spotted and signed and then who knows.”