Published: 00:00, 22 November 2018
The sacrifices are beginning to pay off for Gillingham’s young forward Henry Woods.
He has had to live away from home to chase his dream of becoming a footballer and that became a reality in the summer when he signed his first professional contract.
Woods made his debut for the Gills last week, in the Checkatrade Trophy against Crawley Town, helping them to a 2-1 win.
It’s been an eventful journey for the youngster, moving to Gills as a first-year scholar after ending an eight-year association with Southampton.
He said: “It has always been about football for me and I will do whatever it takes. There is only one thing I want to do.
“I signed my (professional) deal in pre-season fully and it is everything I have worked for.
“When you see that, everything you have sacrificed, it is worthwhile. I was thinking ‘am I really doing this?’ because it is something I have wanted to do my whole life. I never thought about anything else.”
Woods left home at the age of 12 to play in Southampton’s academy as the club grew to become a Premier League mainstay – but that also meant his chances of progressing there narrowed.
He said: “At Southampton they put you in digs early. When I go home I make the most of it as I have not really had a normal childhood. Family is important.
“I didn’t get a scholarship at Southampton but I had been injured and I could see it coming. I had been there so long and had seen the club change completely. Once they got into the Premier League, they started looking further afield, bringing foreign
“They wanted success and got a load of international players in and at that stage I knew I would have to find somewhere else.
“My dad was contacted by Gillingham and after a game against Bournemouth I came for a full trial here and joined as a first-year scholar. I have enjoyed it at Gills so far.
“When we talk here (between the players) I am the only one with savings. I have got back-up plans and I feel quite independent.
“They all say I speak well and I am mature. I feel like (living away from home) has done me well. It is just a sacrifice I was willing to make.
“My dad has always backed me with everything I wanted to do and as soon as the opportunity was there, he was like ‘do it’. To be a footballer is a dream and it was just another step up the ladder that I had
Read more from Henry in this week's Medway Messenger newspaper
More by this authorLuke Cawdell
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)