Updated: Saturday, 20th April 2019 @ 3:28pm

Dreams can come true: FC United defender finally makes grade... nine years after Old Trafford rejection

Dreams can come true: FC United defender finally makes grade... nine years after Old Trafford rejection

| By Mike Taylor

Three David Beckham posters on his bedroom wall, two grass-stained Manchester United shirts lay on the floor and – as he lays under his Fred the Red duvet at night – one dream to become a professional footballer…hardly unusual for a young boy growing up in the North West.

But, for every Wayne Rooney, there are thousands, millions even, whose dreams turn to a sobering realisation that they have failed to make the grade in what has become one of the most cut-throat industries around.

Perhaps most cruel of all, is the almighty crash back down to earth for those who have been compared to some of the game’s finest talents in their tender years, only to be dropped at the very final hurdle.

That appeared to be the not-so-uncommon case for new Fleetwood Town signing, Tom Davies, who recently penned his first professional deal at the age of 21 after a successful season with FC United of Manchester.

The young defender once courted the academies of boyhood club Manchester United and former Premier League champions, Blackburn Rovers, but after being dropped by both Davies’ rollercoaster ride has a happy conclusion after a hard fought battle.

Davies recalled: “I remember being invited to a trial at [Manchester] United after being spotted playing for my local club, Grappenhall in Warrington – it is one of my most vivid childhood memories, and as a United fan, it was genuinely a dream come true.

“The trials went really well and I signed as an 8-year-old. I went on to spend four years with them and the club was unbelievable to me – it was a really special time and some of the trips to places like Barcelona and Texas are things that I’ll never forget.”

Despite the ever-increasing emphasis placed on youth systems of Premier League clubs, Davies remembers the gap between first-team and academy.

He added: “The Premier League clubs, in particular, have huge academies with plenty of full-time staff who are there to support you if you ever have a problem. Having said that, we never had any contact at all with anyone in and around the first-team in terms of players or staff.”

After a fruitful four-year spell with Manchester United, Davies was released as a 12-year-old and went on to join Blackburn Rovers until he was released again aged 16.

“As a youngster it is really difficult to take. When I left United, it was different because clubs were willing to take a shot on their cast offs. Whereas when I left Blackburn, I remember being very low and thinking that was the end of my chances of making it in the game.

“Both were especially hard, but leaving your boyhood club is a very bitter pill to swallow, especially at the age of 12. I’ve had plenty of knocks trying to make it – but I’ve come to learn it genuinely is about how you respond to them.”

LEAGUE DREAM: Davies in action for FC United earlier this season

Without a club and with hopes of making a living from the game at an all-time low, Davies had brief spells with non-league sides Warrington Town and Runcorn Town while at college before being offered a place at Northumbria University on a football scholarship.

“I played for the university team and then Team Northumbria, who play in the Northern League,” he said. “I had a great time there – we won the league and cup double in my first season there which was brilliant.

“On a personal level, it was great to score two goals against Newcastle United at St James' Park in the Northumbria Senior Cup final – to play at such a big stadium and to score with all my family there was great for me.”

Upon completing university, Davies returned to the North West where he was approached by Manchester United break-offs, FC United of Manchester, to undergo a trial ahead of the 2013/14 campaign.

The Warrington-born defender impressed manager Karl Marginson and has consequently gone on to become a regular at the heart of FC’s defence this season – chipping in with four goals in his 34 outings for the Bury-based part-timers.

Those performances, inevitably, caught the eye of teams better placed in the football pyramid and dreams of becoming professional were finally realised as League Two promotion hopefuls Fleetwood Town announced their capture of the youngster a fortnight ago.

The Cod Army, who are currently in the automatic promotion push in League Two, signed Davies on an 18-month deal with the first few of those to be spent back on loan to help FC’s own promotion bid.

And Davies admits he will be leaving Gigg Lane with a heavy heart at the end of the season.

“I was buzzing to be at a club who has at least some affiliation with Manchester United and with such a huge fan base,” Davies explained. “I was out of work and FC [United] have been great in finding me part time work in the community alongside my football with them.

“Playing in front of the FC fans is unbelievable. The atmosphere they create home and away was something I’d never experienced before. It’s such a community club as well, the players and the fans are always in close proximity and get on well – I’ll be gutted to leave them all behind.

“I also cannot thank my manager, Karl [Marginson], enough. He always said he wants to develop players and if that means them moving on then he wouldn't hold anyone back and he has been true to his word throughout the whole process.

“It’s a fantastic club and one I’ll always remember fondly, I also hope to return there one day.”

Rewind just a month, and Davies himself admits he would have found it difficult to believe he is now officially a Football League player.

“It’s one of those things that is always in the back of your mind but you just never think it will never happen to you. I certainly thought my chance had gone after plenty of setbacks early on in my career,” he said.

“I heard Fleetwood were interested earlier on in the season but nothing concrete came of it. My manager [Karl Marginson] got a phone call late one night saying they did want to talk to me and, four days later, I had signed. It all happened really quickly and it was a really surreal time.

“There is no place I’d rather be doing it at then Fleetwood Town after seeing their new ground and speaking with the people at the club, I’m just buzzing to get started. There is going to be a lot of hard work involved but I’m ready for that and hopefully things go well for me.”

Davies could be playing in the third tier of English football next season, and with his continuing refusal to take no for an answer, there is no reason why he cannot go on to be the poster on the bedroom walls of the next generation of young hopefuls in years to come.

Pictures courtesy of Mark Lee, with thanks.