Unfortunately for Romal, his time at City came to an end as a 16-year-old when he was released. His hopes and dreams had come crashing down around him as he left the City Football Academy one last time alongside his mum and grandad, pondering the next step of his career.
Some players drop out of football entirely, others seek pastures new, while some go back into education and choose a completely different path.
“It was so quick and straightforward,” admitted Mally. “They said they wouldn’t be offering me a contract and explained the reasons why and we just walked out. I genuinely wasn’t upset, weirdly enough – I felt like it was coming, so I kind of built myself up for it. It was a kick in the face, but I got up eventually and got on with it.
“There was a time period after getting released where I was struggling; I was trialling at different clubs and little things like niggles were setting me back. I went to Fulham for a week and they said I wasn’t what they were looking for, and it was getting me quite down.
“It was the start of the school term and I went to college and I thought: ‘This is it; this is my life now’ but at the same time I genuinely couldn’t do the college work – I’m not built for that.
“Academically, I wouldn’t say I’m the brightest – even attending a private school and having the one-to-one tuition; it wasn’t enough for me and I didn’t really take my GCSEs too seriously. It’s not something that I’m proud of at all, but I just wanted to play football and it was only later on that I realised.
“I only just got into college on a few GCSEs, so if anything I do regret me education – it could have been a lot better. I’m not silly; I’m switched on but at the time I wasn’t interested.
“I was doing a BTEC in PE and I couldn’t remember seeing it at GCSE at all. I remember the first time they set an assignment and they said I had to write 10 pages, and I was like ‘no way’. I said it to everyone because I had a few friends there and said I wasn’t doing that.
“I was thinking there must be another chance and one day after college I got a phone call off my agent at the time saying Barnsley wanted me to come up and trial. I said let’s go, let’s do it and off we went to Barnsley for the trial.”
The Oakwell Training Ground was worlds apart from the multi-million-pound facilities at the CFA, but it was here where Mally felt right at home once more.
It took a while for him to settle in and become accustomed to a different style of coaching, and he reserved special praise for our academy staff at the time who helped him find his feet and showed him some tough love, too.
“There was Chris Howarth; he was amazing – I remember when I first came here and it was in the first week and he told me not to worry, they’d sort me out,” reminisced Romal. “And those are the words I remember like it was yesterday: ‘We’ll sort you out’ and the club honestly haven’t done anything other than that since I’ve been here."
Please note that limited numbers of this programme are available.