AFTER being released from professional clubs, most players end up on the non-league scrapheap, determined to find a team that will help them climb back up the football ladder. For Matthew Fossen, this was a route he wanted to avoid.

The ex-City academy player, who is now 24, has travelled across Europe in his attempt to make it to the top level. His latest venture is going to be out in Burgos, Spain.

Fossen began his footballing endeavours aged eight at Leeds United, coming through the ranks with local lad Kalvin Phillips and Premier League star Lewis Cook, before ending up at Valley Parade.

However, another opening quickly presented itself and the youngster grabbed it with both hands.

“Halifax Town offered to take me out of school and created a plan that would put me in the first team,” Fossen said.

“Going to training every morning instead of English and maths, it was a great opportunity for me. At 15, I was playing for their Under-19s.

“If you look at Bradford City and look at how many players who have come through their academy and played, there isn’t many. I was just going to be a number like everyone else, get a year pro at 18 and get sent out on loan or released. I went to Halifax to get a route in.”

It was at The Shay where Fossen learnt the dangers of the ‘business’.

He said: “I was flying in my second season. We were playing in the FA Youth Cup against Burnley and I snapped my hip, which meant I was out for a year.

“I went from being Halifax’s golden boy, on the verge of making my FA Cup debut at 17, to them not wanting anything to do with me. We (players) are pieces of meat and that is the reality.”

The promising defender was now left with a lengthy injury and no club. Luckily, a former Premier League striker would step in to provide help.

He added: “We used to play pre-season friendlies (at Halifax) against this academy called IAFE, which Brian Deane set up.

“I had a really good game and Brian gave me his contact card and said, ‘if anything happens let me know and I will look after you’.

“Six months later I got injured and rang him. He brought me into the academy and I got full rehab.

“After a year, I was flying and their rival academy, Mark Ellis’ RIASA, wanted to speak to me. They wanted an English lad to help with all their international boys.

“I played with Brazilians, Mexicans and Americans. It was quite bizarre but great because I played in lots of different countries when we went on tours.”

A non-league return was now beckoning for Fossen. A cautious approach would be key though.

“Football is crazy,” he admitted. “It is about talent, hard work, luck and people’s opinions.

“If you look at the stats for central defenders at clubs across the English leagues, the average age is 29. It shows you what they are looking for.

“There is so much money over here that the manager is always under pressure, so he will pick someone he has known for five or six years. I have had offers from clubs, but I knew that I would be third or fourth choice, even though I might be better than the players that are there.

“I took the plunge out because I wasn’t happy sitting on a bench at a decent team, getting paid good money. I wanted to play football.

“A lot of lower league players are not willing to step out of their comfort zone so that is why the stats are so low for people who make it.”

Fossen is half-Norwegian, so the Yeadon-born player decided to pack his bags and go to his second nation.

After playing for Third Division side SK Herd in Aalesund for a season, Fossen was destined to sign for another Norwegian club before Covid-19 struck.

This meant a rethink and led to an offer from Spanish third tier side CD Bupolsa.

“They were looking for a centre half outside of Spain,” he said. “They found my highlights online and contacted me. I was exactly what the club wanted so I decided to take it. It wasn’t the best money but playing out in Spain was desirable.

“In Norway, I was playing against technical giants and in Spain I am going to be playing out from the back. I’m building a good CV, learning different styles of play for if I do decide to return to England one day. Playing professionally here has always been the dream since I was a kid.”