Danny Hall: Goalkeeper Joe Green's story shows the value in never giving up on your dreams
As he took one last look at New York before boarding a plane home at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Joe Green was terrified that he'd made a terrible decision.
“I was leaving a four-year, fully-paid football scholarship, and the chance of a business degree, behind me,” he says.
“Not to mention the friends I had made. But I knew that, if I wanted to become a professional footballer, I had to come back home.
“I was heartbroken, but I knew it had to happen for me to pursue my dream.”
Joe’s decision was vindicated earlier this year when he made his professional debut, in goal for Newport County in their FA Cup defeat to Championship side Blackburn Rovers.
It was a dream many years in the making for the Sheffield United fan, who was dropped by the Blades and had unsuccessful trials at Scunthorpe and Doncaster Rovers before heading stateside with the Monroe Mustangs.
“I also played for Sheffield FC when I was 18,” Joe, now aged 20, remembers.
“My manager there was Mick Wadsworth, and he got me an opportunity to train with Sheffield United on a daily basis.
“At the time, I’d just got a bricklaying apprenticeship with Bellway Homes but, because the only thing I wanted to do was be a professional footballer, I had to tell Bellway I couldn’t do it again after only two weeks.
“United had four goalkeepers on their books, and I soon realised it wasn’t going to happen there. I felt disappointed and frustrated that my career wasn’t going anywhere; I felt I was dropping in the middle, and I was absolutely gutted.
“I felt worthless, struggling with the constant rejection, and thought that I should maybe try something else.”
Joe had one last roll of the dice, however, with an application - developed by his parents’ app company - which profiles players and gives scouts a host of information, photos and videos.
The app helped Joe attract the attention of the Mustangs, who offered a four-year scholarship.
“America was ace,” Joe says. “Absolutely awesome. But it was wrong for me.
“I was really excited to get out there; I had to, because nothing was happening in England. The scout promised me loads of football and the chance of making it professionally in the States.
“But after only a few weeks I realised that the football wasn’t the same standard that I was used to and despite having a fantastic life in America, I knew what I had to do.”
Joe’s app helped him secure a trial at Chesterfield - thanks to Ian Richards, his former coach at Penistone Church - but the Spireites had too many goalkeepers on their books.
“I was thinking, ‘here we go again’,” Joe said.
But Mark Crossley, Chesterfield’s goalkeeping coach, saw Joe’s potential and recommended him to John Sheridan, the former Spireites boss who was in charge of Newport at the time.
“John gave me the chance I had been waiting for,” Joe smiles, “and it all came together. It showed me never to give up.
“My debut, in the FA Cup, will stick with me forever. It was a night I’ll never forget.”
Joe now hopes his Players Profile App can help others in similar situations.
“It’s so hard getting your name out, and getting spotted these days,” he says.
“Managers and scouts see so many players... so you have to be different to stand out. The app offers that.
“There are no guarantees, of course, but it helped me a lot. I was very lucky... my family supported me all through it and, no matter what the future holds, no-one can ever take these past few months away from me.
“I will always have these memories. I kept on going and believed in myself and all I want to do now is play, play, play. Play as hard as I can and make a name for myself.
“I love football, it’s my life and I just want to get better and better.
“It’s great in Newport... I miss my family and friends up north, of course, but Newport gave me the break I needed.
“And I am really grateful for that.”