Every boy wants to be a professional footballer when they’re growing up, but for most of us that dream dies at some point as we grow up. Whether it’s at about 18 when you realise you’re just not going to cut it at semi-pro level, or in my case, when you’re about 11 and you simply realise you’re a bit crap! At the other end of the scale some kids are fast-tracked into the professional game, getting a contract at a young age and staying in the magical world of professional football for most of their early lives. This is the easy way to do it. There are a group of young adults stuck in a weird limbo where they still don’t know whether or not they are going to make it in the professional game. This group are the not so famous lads known as ‘Non-League Players’.
With the cost of players rising every year it seems, clubs are starting to look through the non-league teams for the next gem. While it appears to be like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack, when a club does find that special talent lurking in the lower leagues it really is worthwhile. My beloved Addicks appear to have done just that with a young Zimbabwean called Bradley Pritchard.
He’s not a household name, and on the normally reliable Football Manager he’s ‘not needed by the club’, but in reality attacking midfielder Pritchard is one of the most exciting players on our books. Having had spells at Carshalton Athletic, Nuneaton Borough, Tamworth and Hayes and Yeading, Bradley found himself working for Charlton as a Performance Analyst as a volunteer. The club were good enough to give him a short trial and he was signed shortly after on a one year contract.
He’s now a key member of the first team and a full international with his native Zimbabwe. Not bad for a part-timer just two seasons ago! And it’s not just his football that has led to the Valley faithful cheering Pritchard’s name. His attitude is one of just enjoying every moment in the world of a professional footballer. He runs more than any other player on the pitch never gives up and when he scored his first league goal on Saturday looked like he was going to cry with joy! He plays how every supporter would if they got the chance to do the best job on earth. Maybe that’s just his character, but I like to think it’s because he has had to do the hard work in non-league football to get where he is now. He hasn’t had it handed to him on a plate from a young age.
So while you may not have heard of him, I’m sure Bradley Pritchard is a role model for all those guys plying their trade in the lower leagues. And he shows that in some cases, if you keep trying, you can get that lucky break and the dream of being a professional footballer can come true!