My Story: James Poole – From Sunday league to scouting, via Manchester City

James Poole discusses his footballing journey so far which has seen him play for clubs including Manchester City, Hartlepool and Salford before turning his focus to scouting. 

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When you’re young it’s just a natural path that you follow, all your mates play football and I came from a huge Manchester City background.

I had trials at various places when I was younger but wasn’t taken anywhere, I just enjoyed playing Sunday league with my mates until I signed for Macclesfield when I was 13.

It was more about having fun to be honest rather than taking it too seriously, but Man City came in when I’d just turned 15, with my family connections to the club it was a no-brainer. A few other high-profile clubs were interested but there was no other place that I wanted to go.

I signed at the right time, at that time City had the best reputation for youth development in the country but you could never have predicated what would happen over the next few years.

In 2008, my group turned professional just after we’d won the FA Youth Cup against Chelsea and the new owners came in and it all changed.

It was a really strong group coming through, Daniel Sturridge was always a different case because he was always the main man, he was always ahead of his age group. We had Kieran [Trippier] and we all knew his quality at that time, for him not to have played a first-team game was a massive, massive shame and I’m sure City would love to have him back.

READ: My Story – From Liverpool to Sao Paulo, Michael Beale tells his tale

Ben [Mee] is an established Premier League player and many did find a way back to first-team football but other lads there were really talented and could have had different opportunities if things had been different.

That pathway was either not in place or neglected slightly during the 18-20 years but it’s hard to look back with any anger or bitterness, the club had priorities and at the time we weren’t a high priority.

I suppose it was disappointing because it meant there were fewer opponents, things happened that I wish had been dealt with differently but I can’t change that. As a City fan, I was happy to see the club doing well but it’s a shame it had an affect on my own career there.

When I went on loan to Bury and made my debut, I knew the second I stepped on the pitch I had to move. I was 20 at the time and even though I knew City was a great club, I wasn’t going to have a career there.

Part of me wishes I had have been kicked out on loan a little bit earlier so I’d been playing at 18 but I came back from that loan and knew I didn’t want to play reserve football anymore. As soon as I had a taste of it, I wanted to get it back as soon as possible.

I went off and joined Hartlepool on a permanent basis and Nolberto Solano joined on the same day as me. I’d been on loaned and knew the manager, he brought Nobby in and it probably didn’t work out as he hoped, we didn’t see him for six months after the gaffer got sacked.

He was a good guy, he couldn’t run much anymore but the ability wasn’t there. I wasn’t too unfamiliar being in world-class company coming from City but he was a joy to play with – he was a Newcastle icon and a Peruvian legend.

After living away for three years I decided it was time for a change, I absolutely loved my time there but there was an obvious lack of investment year on year and it’s led them to being where they are now.

I had an opportunity to explore other options, for a few personal reasons I didn’t end up pursuing those options and for a year or so I was in limbo a little bit.

But I didn’t regret my decision to leave, I had a brief trial at Melbourne City and a few more games back at Bury before I ended up joining Salford City.

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The first year at Salford was my favourite year of football in my whole career. It was the lowest level I played at and probably the lowest wage I’d earned too, but I turned up every game and I was desperate to play.

I loved training, I loved that environment and of course there was a pull whilst working for City too. I still wanted to play full-time but an opportunity came up to work for Man City while playing and I just decided to go for it.

It was an amazing year, the FA Cup run, the TV documentary and promotion – it was all just a dream to be honest.

Everybody forgets that I scored in the play-off semi-final after Gaz [Gareth Seddon] scored! It was the perfect way to end that season, I’d been injured and the team’s form was off but we went on a really strong unbeaten run.

In the second half of the final we absolutely battered Workington, we were 2-1 down with 10 minutes to go, you couldn’t write a story as good as that and it was a privilege to be a part of that. I wish I could experience that feeling again but I’d never experienced anything like it before.

To draw Hartlepool on our FA Cup run was fantastic too, we watched the draw together in a pub and the lads knew my connections with the club and there was a lot of shouting and chanting towards me after that!

It was a dream draw but the result was tough on us, over 180 minutes we were without doubt the better team. We got clapped off at their place, we deserved a result but it was probably for the best we went out at that point.

We could concentrate on the league, we were into the second half of the season and we didn’t have the distraction of playing Derby. It was enjoyable to be a part of but I don’t think we’d have gone on that unbeaten run if we’d continued on in the FA Cup.

Now I work for the City Group more than just working for Man City. I’m involved with the recruitment for New York City, Melbourne and Yokohama with a group of scouts and it’s been an amazing opportunity.

I’m not sure there’s anyone in football getting a better education for what they want to do than me right now. It’s proven I was right to step away from full-time football, whenever I miss it I just remind myself this is an opportunity that money can’t buy and it’s exactly where I want to be.

I joined Altrincham at the end of last season but I’m more focussed on scouting now. I’ve had opportunities to go back full-time but I absolutely love what I do now, I want to play for teams who are going places and it would be great to have another good cup run with Alty.

Maybe I could play at a higher level but I feel the team is going places, it more than makes up for the fact I’m playing a bit lower than I’ve been used to throughout my career.

Follow James on Twitter at @JaPoole10

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