FOR many, the chance to visit or live in Dubai is a dream, and that is something Eccleshill United star Sam Bradley has been lucky enough to experience.

The former Leeds United youth player has spent the last 17 months in the Middle East, but is now ready to return to England in time for the new season.

Before the move, Bradley was captain of Eccleshill, playing 112 games over several years and leading his team to play-off success in 2018. The decision to leave West Yorkshire was made with a few factors in mind.

Speaking in an interview with Rohit Bains, who used to be on Eccleshill's media team, Bradley said: “Basically, as mad as it sounds, I moved over here (Dubai) to be with my girlfriend, Natalie.

“When I first met Nat, I was with her for two or three months before she was due to move to Dubai, so I didn’t want to tell her to stay in England and ruin one of her dreams that she’s always wanted to do – teach in Dubai.

“I said I’d see what I could do, speak to my boss and see if I could get some work over in Dubai. Obviously, I’ve always wanted to travel as well, so I thought it was a good idea to go with her to Dubai.”

Speaking on his job as a contracts manager, he added: “I’ll get big drawings, print them out, price them up, do invoices and whatever my boss wants me to do really. So that tied in with moving over here (Dubai) because I can do all that stuff remote based.”

In the months he spent abroad, Bradley did get back on the pitch, featuring alongside some big names, such as Sweden legend Christian Wilhelmsson, who has appeared in a World Cup and three European Championships.

He said: “It was a bit of a whirlwind. I didn’t have a team when I came over here and I met friends out here through Natalie, who recommended I went to a team called Dubai All-Stars.

“The only stumbling block was I had to have a tourist visa, which I don’t, to play for the first-team. So, I played for their Sunday league team instead, which you don’t need to register for.

“I could do a month block for the first-team, so I played all pre-season with them and played a few games. But, after that, I wasn’t able to fulfil the rest of the fixtures, which was quite frustrating.”

The biggest question remaining is why Bradley is leaving sunny Dubai for a return to his homeland.

He added: “The reason I am coming back is because Nat’s contract has ended with her teaching job.

“I was supposed to come back on June 20, ready for pre-season next season, but as it stands, I can’t get back because there are no flights from Dubai.

“I spoke to my boss and he said to just see how the months go on, so I’m basically just staying in Dubai until everything goes back to normal. We’re looking to get back around August or September time.”

The centre half admits it was an easy decision to come back to Kingsway and he can’t wait to put on the blue and white stripes once again in his second stint as an Eagle.

Bradley said: “I am very excited, I can’t wait for it. Obviously, it’s been an enjoyable experience over here in Dubai, but the standard in England I do miss and all the lads.

“Before I left to go to Dubai, I said to Adrian Benson (Eccleshill chairman) and Sean Regan (former United manager) at the time that 100 per cent my first thought, when coming back home, was to sign back with Eccleshill.

“It’s going to be a new challenge and it’s going to be very different under a new manager, but I know Lee Elam (current Eccleshill boss).

“I’ve played with him (at Albion Sports) and everything he says excites me and the project going forward with the club and owners, it all sounds promising.

“So, I’m looking forward to getting back, getting stuck in and I hope the games come thick and fast so I can get my teeth into it.”

Bradley ended by speaking about his long-term ambitions with the Northern Counties East League Premier Division team.

He said: “Hopefully, I can stay at Eccleshill as long as I can. Get those promotions and climb the league.

“I remember speaking to Sean and Adrian and saying I wanted to settle at a club and get that good vibe and build something.

“But we want to take the club forward and make it a bigger club really. So, in regards to how high I want to go, I ideally want to go high with Eccleshill.”

Rohit Bains