Published: 07:49, 09 January 2019
| Updated: 07:50, 09 January 2019
By Peter Akinmosa
Four years ago, Joe Denny was signing his first professional contract for Ebbsfleet.
The Fleet academy starlet had a bright future ahead of him and was playing with the likes of Shilow Tracey, who now plays for Premier League Tottenham.
Since then he has slipped down the football pyramid after getting released by Ebbsfleet at the age of 19.
He finds himself playing at Oakwood in Bostik South East for VCD Athletic.
The 21-year-old centre-back plays week in, week out and is gaining valuable experience at a senior level.
“I played in the Ryman South and have played over 100 games now which is really good experience for someone my age," said Denny.
“So if I do make it up to Ebbsfleet’s level again or beyond that, I have experienced a lot of men’s football at a young age which can only be good for my development.”
His time in the Fleet youth set-up is a memory he is fond of.
“I really enjoyed myself as it gave me a platform to improve," said Denny.
“I felt I developed so much as a player when I was there to be honest. I really enjoyed it in that aspect.
“We were treated like professionals so it was really helpful. The coaching was top of the range so it helped my skills to develop. We would get breakfast and go to the gym, it was nice and enjoyable.”
But, just like in most cases across professional teams in England, the chance of making it to the first team was difficult and a big step for youth players. Denny was not afforded the opportunity.
“At that time I was training with the first team a lot and I thought I could get a chance but it didn’t come,” he reflected.
“I’m very positive and I believe in my own abilities, so I thought if I did get a chance in the first team I would have taken it.”
Getting released from one of your boyhood clubs as a teenager was a depressing time, however a strong-willed Denny knew he couldn’t just rest on his laurels.
“I was very disheartened but I knew I had to prove I could play at that level,” said Denny, who also featured for Sittingbourne before finding his feet at VCD.
“So I went to Thamesmead Town and proved I could play in men’s football. I got more game time at that level and now it’s just all about working my way up.”
Denny played in the same youth team as Tracey, a skilful forward who also learnt his trade at the Fleet.
While Denny was turned down, Tracey was picked up by Tottenham after attracting interest from a host of Premier League clubs.
“In some moments you would think in training 'wow, how has he done that?' He would do stuff that is out of the ordinary," added Denny.
“He is probably one of the best players I’ve seen and played with, his power, strength and skill obviously got him that move to Spurs and now he’s scoring a lot of goals at under-23s level.
“Hopefully he’ll get a chance in the Spurs first team. I hope he does because he is a good player and a really nice guy”.
Denny now studies sports science at the University of Greenwich and is hoping his degree will see him move into the fitness sector.
“I did do a BTEC level three while at the academy and both years I got a distinction which set me up to go university now,” said Denny.
“I feel like I could potentially be a very good football coach. So my degree when I finish it next year will give me a platform to go on and be a football coach or work in the fitness industry.”
Although Denny is currently building an educational future, the determined individual still has high hopes of making it professional.
“My ultimate goal however is to make it in the pro game” he said. “I’m still quite young for a centre back so I have a lot of learning to do but I feel like I’ve got the capabilities to do that. I definitely have aspirations of making it professional.”
Only time will tell how far Denny will be able to climb back up the football ladder.