A SUNDERLAND teenager is hoping playing football on the Continent will help him land a contract with a professional club.
James Talbot, 18, says he will be giving it everything in Samsung’s Win A Pro Contract contest, which takes place later this year.
Central midfielder James, of Ewesley Road in High Barnes, says he hopes his experience in the game can help him secure a deal with Football League clubs Swindon Town – Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio’s former side – Leyton Orient or Wycombe Wanderers.
James, who currently plays at semi-professional level for Crook Town in the Northern League, told the Echo: “I was with Darlington from the age of nine until 16.
“Unfortunately, I was released and I thought that was it.
“But I was asked to trial for the Vision Pro Sport Institute in Spain by the former player and Preston manager Paul Simpson.
“This meant leaving home for two years to train and play in Spain and then in Portugal.”
He added: “I have had a taste of the professional lifestyle and playing my football in a professional environment.
“But I have never had the status and profile I think I deserve.
“The only way to get that would be to win a pro contract.”
Amateur players of all abilities can enter the competition, and this year three winners will earn one-year professional contracts – one at each Football League side.
Hopefuls will be tested at regional skills trials, to be held at Goals Soccer Centres, and during 11-a-side matches as judges pick the cream of the crop to progress.
James joins fellow Wearsider Aidan Brook in his bid to make it on the pitch.
Central midfielder Aidan, who is studying computer animation and digital special effects at Northumbria University, sees his entry into the challenge as his last chance to make it as a professional footballer.
He spent 18 months with Sunderland’s Centre of Excellence when he was 10, but he was not one of the 25 kept on by the club.
The 20-year-old has played semi-pro with Silksworth, but is now keeping himself in shape by playing for his uncle’s side, the Welcome Tavern.
Last year’s winners, Jack Sherratt and Kayden Jackson, signed for Leyton Orient and Swindon Town respectively, and they are hoping to make first-team debuts this season.
Registration for Samsung Win A Pro Contract 2013/14 closes on Monday, September 16.
At least six players will be picked for boot camps at the three clubs.
The three eventual winners will be chosen by club managers Kevin MacDonald of Swindon, Orient’s Russell Slade and Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth.
Ex-England player Matt Tissier is backing the competition.