Joshua Signey was blissfully oblivious to what lay ahead but, nonetheless, besides himself when he had walked through the doors of the elite academy as a sprightly 6-year-old from the township of Bakewell, a shade over an hour's drive from the Manchester United Club.
No doubt, as Signey went through the spin-dry cycle of a cutthroat environment over the years he became aware of the opportunities at the Red Devils' nursery but also acutely conscious of the pitfalls.
"That's an amazing part of Man United and a key part of my development I'm still using that I learned there," says the 22-year-old before he laces up his boots for Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United in week nine of the national summer league against Team Wellington in the capital city in a 2pm kickoff on Sunday.
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"In some ways that sets me apart as family of a club as well, teaching us off the field and on the field, " he says. "I'm obviously upset but there's more to life than just football at Man United so I've just got to keep moving and look elsewhere with other teams."
Signey's overwhelming initiation and his impending release are part of the vicious cycle in England.
"A lot of them are not in the game any more, which is quite sad," he says, delighted to see some of them still in the equation.
It was a "massive shock to the system" to be cut loose for a lad whose father, Nicholas, and mother Louise, running a confectionery and toy business, had given him the blessing to chase his footballing dreams.
The academy offers a system that caters to the bright-eyed youngsters from 12, supplying them with free boots and a schooling system that works as a safety net in a culture of acceptance that a fair number of recruits will need to ease back into the mainstream of the daily rigours of life.
"You don't have to worry about anything once you're there," he says. "I was fortunate enough to have that experience."
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A two-year stint with Morecambe, an 80-minute drive northwest of Manchester, came up shy when he failed to make the cull for the first team from the academy. Physically the boy's template hadn't matured quick enough into the desired state of a tensile man.
In hindsight, he also perhaps took his progression for granted so falling out of love with the beautiful game was natural but like a bloke who has loved and lost, he doesn't want to change a thing. It is, as they as, what it is in the chaotic footballing jungle.
Playing college soccer at NCAA Division One school in Campbell University in North Carolina through an American scholarship was godsend for Signey.
His father was pivotal in helping Signey lift himself out of a mind swamp for the next chapter with third division IF Vestri in Iceland in his third year in the United States. He found footballing love again, spurning advances from States teams to show loyalty to Vestri for providing the catalyst to reignite his playing career.
"It's [the US] the best thing I've done because its help develop me as a person."
He graduated with a business degree during the four-year stint that saw him invited to play for FC Florida in his freshman year. He helped them win the state, regionals and make it to the national final.
Pulling pints in the daytime now at the Emporium bar at Masonic Hotel skirting the Marine Parade, Signey has injected some perspective in his quest to carve a niche in the game of life.
They were a little unlucky, he says, to stumble 2-1 to Hamilton Wanderers on the road before the Christmas break in what was a physical and tempestuous affair.
"I think they [Wanderers] did well in playing a dirty game so we're not used to that, really," he says, agreeing the Ruben Parker Hanks-skippered visitors had been drawn into playing the hosts' game.
A "footballing" side, he believes Bay United did not respond smartly enough when Hamilton started dictating terms.
"If the game is to happen again we'd win, definitely, but, yeah, we played a good game and we're looking forward to playing them at home the next time."
Like an adroit midfielder, he switches play from Porritt Stadium to David Farrington Park where quality players will bring the best out in Bay United for a result in the clash between the second-placed hosts and third-placed visitors.
Signey says the Chris Greatholder and Bill Robertson co-coached side had played Team Wellington in a pre-season match so they were familiar with a few lads.
"They've got some good individual players so I think they'll definitely pass the ball and that could play into our hands because we think we can cause problems if we press hard to win the ball high and exploit them that way."
Bay are three points adrift of Team Wellington on 15 with Auckland City FC at the top of the ladder on 18. That all three teams have three stalemates to date suggests how much parity there is between the front runners.
The intensity at training was obvious as they strive towards achieving that "full potential".
"We have some good players so once thinks click and everything falls into place I think we can play better than we are doing although we've had a decent start already," he says of the three wins and as many draws in eight outings. "Anything more than that will be a bonus."
Signey agrees he falls in the mould of an English player who likes to bring the ball down to heel but rises to the occasion if the opposition reaches for the knuckle dusters.
"My game normally is to get the ball on the floor to start to dictate things but sometimes the game requires me to use my physical side to put in a good tackle that can certainly rally the troops and give a decent encouragement going forward."
He feeds off centreback Robertson "who eats everything in the air" and finds assurance alongside Sho Goto's serene but clinical demeanour.
"I've got to do my part physically on the field to keep the team ticking, really," he says.
While franchises, such as Auckland and Wellington, have the fiscal might, he believes the Bay United types have what it takes to upstage them, if the moon aligns with the sun and the stars in a competitive league.
"CG and Bill have been [great] with the lads and Robo's been a great leader on the pitch and CG's got good man management and, I guess, good at speaking to the lads and giving his analyses," he says, also saluting a Bay United board member for billeting him and treating him like a family member.
While he has interests in investments through a degree he finished six months before his tenure, he still yearns for a coaching career when he hangs up his boots.
"I've an open mind, really," he says. "Obviously having a degree is something that I can fall back on from football but I'm just using football to get as much experience as I can in the world to enjoy myself, really."
No doubt, the Hawke's Bay landscape, weather and its affable people have been vital in helping him ease into the club culture here.
The "dog-eat-dog environment" means playing in England isn't an option for him anymore. He has a 13-year-old brother who has other interests than football.
"I prefer being away to experience new things [because] you don't experience much when you're at home."
The allure of lucrative professional structure in England has lost its sheen for him as he ventures out "in the real world" although he misses not spending Christmas and New Year with his family.