Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the most talented youngsters in England hands down, but he almost didn’t make the cut as a professional two years ago when he was told he wasn’t big enough and good enough.
The former Southampton starlet is known for his down to earth attitude which stems from his fathers cooling character, but also from one moment that was pivotal in his quest to become a professional footballer.
The 19-year-old ace was given an ultimatum – he had just two months left to earn a scholarship to the Southampton senior side otherwise faced canning football as a career.
He was eager to follow in his fathers footsteps and become pro, and the motivation to build up his strength and stamina stemmed from that fateful day that he realized he may never make it.
He told the Mirror:
I didn’t feel I had to follow in his footsteps, I just knew I wanted to. In my head I was like any young kid: ‘I’m going to be a footballer.’ But at the same time my mum and dad were making me do my schoolwork and that was important.
People at school used to assume I was going to be a footballer and it wasn’t until I got to 16, when I was at Southampton, that I had a doubt for the first time in my life.
Southampton said I wasn’t big enough but it was just because I hadn’t grown. Simple as that. Some boys grow quicker than others. From the age of nine to 12, I was one of the higher achievers in the age group.
But everyone shot up at 14 but I didn’t shoot up until 16. So during those two years, when I was coming up to 16, Southampton said: ‘We don’t think you can cope’.
They were going to release me, but then said: ‘Technically you are one of the best players in the squad – you just can’t affect the game’. That’s what they kept telling me.
Southampton told me I had two months to get a scholarship. They told me there was a lad who was going to get it ahead of me. That was the first time I realised I might have to say to my friends: ‘I am coming to college with you lot’.
I was the last player to get the scholarship in my age group. They gave me two months over Christmas, so I went away. I was doing gym and extra running, and doing loads of stuff with my dad.
At the same time, I was going to look at colleges, thinking: ‘Oh I don’t want to go to college, I want to be a footballer’.
But I came back, got my scholarship and, six months later, was in the first team. When it levels out and you get to 17, 18, ability takes over again to a certain extent and that is when I pushed on.