For Tim Payne, the moment of truth came on a cold November morning last year.

The Kiwi teenager, who last week put pen to paper on a two-and-a-half year professional contract with Blackburn Rovers, was nearing the end of his first trial period at Ewood Park when he was told he would be playing against the Celtic reserves.

Until then, he had been training diligently and trying to impress without really knowing if he was making an impact.

"The trial period was something I had never experienced before," Payne says.


"When you arrive, you are given your kit and boots and then you just train and do what you have to do. There was a bit of mystery. It was a nervous period because you never know what [the coaches are thinking] and all of the other lads are trying to make their mark too."

When informed of the Celtic match, Payne knew instantly it could be a pivotal juncture, a 'go-no' point.

"I realised it was my best chance to impress," recalls Payne. "I was pretty nervous before the match, just thinking that hopefully they would like what they saw."

Payne played in wide midfield against the Scottish side (not his preferred position but one where he is reasonably accomplished) and came off satisfied with his performance.

"I thought I did okay," says Payne. "Later I was told they liked what they saw and I guess, looking back, it was an important moment."

However, the 18-year-old is quick to emphasise he hasn't "made it" and, if anything, the road just gets harder from here.

"The hard work is just starting now," says Payne. "Now I need to do what people like Danny [Hay] and Ryan [Nelsen] have told me I can do. When I arrived, Ryan told me if you give it your all, there is no problem; you have got to come off the field every day thinking that you have. I think that's great advice."

Since arriving in Lancashire, Payne has grown accustomed to living like a professional footballer. Before training every morning, the squad head to the gym for a series of 'pre-hab' exercises, essentially dynamic stretching and light strength work to prepare for practice. Then follows a two-hour training session before a team lunch of fish, chicken and pasta. After a break, there is a weights session focusing on the upper or lower body before dinner.


Payne lives at the Blackburn lodge adjacent to their training facility, which sounds similar to a boarding school scenario.

"It's not too bad and it can be fun with all the other boys," says Payne. "On the weekends after training, there is wall to wall football on TV, so we are watching plenty of that, while we always have Sky Sport on for all the latest news and transfer rumours. Like all the foreign lads here, I get hassled a bit - especially when I say things like 'sweet as' and 'not bad, eh'."

Payne has always seemed mature beyond his years, off and on the field. At the age of 15, he was the youngest-ever scorer in the ASB Premiership and, as a 17-year-old, looked more than comfortable at the Under-20 World Cup last year. He has never worried about age difference, saying everyone is equal on the field.

"Maybe it is something to do with being the youngest in my family," laughs Payne, who has two older sisters (Rosalind, 20, and Jessica, 22) and an older brother (Jonathan, 24).

"[Jonathan] never went easy on me," says Payne. "He used to give me a lot of stick and would always put me in my place. We were very competitive."

Payne was also promising on the track, lightning quick over 200m and 400m, but turned his back on the sport at the age of 12.

"I loved athletics but football won over. You can't beat it and I love it so much."

Payne has already trained with the Blackburn first team on a few occasions and hopes to take his chance to step up when it comes.

"It is something to aspire to," says Payne. "Hopefully I can push myself along and start training with the first team as much as possible."

On the day Payne spoke to the Herald on Sunday, training had been moved indoors, as the pitch was frozen solid on top as England endures a harsh winter.

"I love New Zealand and of course I miss the weather, my mates and my family," says Payne.

"The weather in particular up here is bad but you have to make some sacrifices; we have got the best job in the world so you have to live with it."