Within the space of three years, Cameron Lindsay has gone from playing football in England at Blackburn Rovers to working in an Auckland brewery. But when his Onehunga Sports side take on Cashmere Technical in the Chatham Cup semifinal today, he hopes it will mark a significant step back in the right direction.
The 21-year old has returned to amateur football in Auckland - and a part-time job as a factory hand at Lion Breweries - after unsuccessful stints playing professionally at Blackburn Rovers and the Wellington Phoenix, but is now back on top of his game after playing a starring role in a dream Cup run.
Lindsay was New Zealand football's next big thing. At 16, he signed a four-year deal with Blackburn Rovers then at 18 linked up with the Phoenix on a two-year contract. But after failing to establish himself in the professional ranks, Lindsay has returned to the New Zealand domestic scene to get some consistent game time and plot a course back to the top.
Today, Lindsay is Onehunga's main man. He will start in the middle of midfield in the biggest game of his new club's history; a Chatham Cup semi-final against the defending champions. "After I was released from the Phoenix, I played for Team Wellington in the National League but when that finished it was a no-brainer for me, I needed to get out of there," Lindsay said.
"I touched base with Miya (Onehunga coach and former Football Kingz player Hiroshi Miyazawa) and he said 'come here, we can train you, get you back up to speed'."
"I was coming off a few years at the Phoenix and then with Team Wellington where I wasn't playing regular week-in week-out football so it was important for me to just get playing again."
Lindsay quickly developed a link with National League players Ross Haviland, Sean Lovemore and New Zealand Under 20 striker Stuart Holthusen and Onehunga soon topped the Northern Premier League and disposed of all Cup challengers.
The "double" dream died a few weeks ago with key injuries and suspensions leading to league losses but despite losing top scorer Holthusen to American college commitments, Lindsay is confident Onehunga are back to their best.
"With all the history of the Cup this will definitely be one of the biggest games of my career. Hopefully we can make it a great end to the season, I might stick around for the summer to play national league, then I'll head overseas to chase my dream again."
Cashmere boast over 10 players with national league experience and have bolstered last year's Cup winning squad with All White midfielder Aaron Clapham who will pull the strings in midfield.
"If Clapham plays we know he will be a big danger, but we're confident that if we stick to the structure which we've put in place throughout the season, that we can deal with the threat."
Cashmere have lost just one match since hoisting the trophy last year and are one win away from claiming the Mainland Premier League for the second consecutive year.
In tomorrow's semifinal, Central United host Napier City Rovers at Kiwitea St at 1pm.