A former Hucknall Town goalkeeper, who defied a career-threatening injury, is living the dream as he chases a contract with a professional club.
Michael Yates (23) spent the back end of last season between the sticks for the Yellows when they were relegated from the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Now he is hoping to land a plum one-year deal with one of three pro outfits, Swindon Town, Leyton Orient or Wycombe Wanderers, as part of a national competition.
“It would be a dream come true,” says Michael, who lives on Moor Road in Bestwood Village.
“Ever since I started playing football at the age of 15, I have loved the game. I have progressed to a decent standard.”
Michael is one of hundreds of young players across the country who have entered the Win A Pro Contract competition, sponsored by Samsung.
Hopefuls will be tested at regional skills trials and 11-a-side matches as they bid to kickstart their hopes of becoming a professional footballer.
But Michael has already impressed the judges with background details of how he has fought back from injury.
He was preparing for a new season at Town when he sustained a freak injury in an accident on a downhill bike during the summer of 2010.
“I crashed the bike going for a jump and came over the handlebars,” he explains.
“I dislocated my right shoulder and tore the ligaments.
“I had surgery the next day when they fitted an artifical ligament.
“The injury affected me for the best part of two years. But now I’m back to my best and ready to fight for a Samsung contract.”
Michael began his footballing career at Ilkeston Town and spent three years as a young reserve team ‘keeper before he was handed a one-year contract as first-team understudy by the then manager, David Holdsworth.
He was released after Holdsworth left to boss Mansfield Town. But after his shoulder nightmare, he was all set to bounce back when, unbelievably, he dislocated his elbow in the first match of last season, exactly a year ago, when playing for Blidworth Welfare against Linby Colliery Welfare.
“The injuries have really knocked me back, and it’s been a very frustrating time,” says Michael, who went to Ellis Guilford School in Basford.
His recovery began when he returned to Watnall Road just after last Christmas when be became first choice goalkeeper of new manager Darren Kelk.
Town failed to win a single match and Michael conceded dozens of goals in some heavy defeats. But it was all part of a learning curve that stood him in good stead.
“It was difficult because the players I was playing behind were not good enough for that level of football,” he says.
“But in 16 games, I won seven man-of-the-match awards, and at least I was kept busy!”
Now Michael has started the new season with Radcliffe Olympic in the East Midlands Counties League, which is one level above Town on the non-League pyramid.
But who knows? He could soon be turning out for Swindon or Orient in League One or Wycombe in League Two and handing in his notice as a project engineer for Sutton-in-Ashfield-based company, North Midland Construction.
There are contracts up for grabs at all three pro clubs as part of the Samsung competition, which was launched in 2010.
Last year’s winners, Jack Sherratt and Kayden Jackson, are already established at Orient and Swindon respectively and are hoping to make their first team debuts this season.