Goal-hungry George Thomson believes a slice of good old-fashioned stability has been the key to earning his second shot at professional football.
The 22-year-old from Long Clawson considered quitting the game completely just a few years ago as his hopes of joining the pro ranks appeared to be fading.
But following two-and-a-half profitable seasons with King’s Lynn, Thomson last week signed his first professional contract with Conference Premier side Chester FC.
The former Nottingham Forest academy player had expected to sign for the Cheshire club in the summer following a successful trial.
But financial restrictions prevented the move, and when the news did arrive during the January transfer window it was a bolt from the blue.
Thomson said: “I played in a couple of games for Chester last summer and scored twice. It looked like things were going well and I would sign, but for one reason and another things didn’t quite work out.
“Then, out of nowhere, I got a phone call from the manager saying Chester had been in contact and wanted to speak to me.
“I spoke to the manager at Chester and within 48 hours it all went through.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I came out of full-time football and I was delighted when the opportunity came about again.
“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in properly, get in the starting XI and then kick on from there.”
Thomson will combine the first four months of his professional career with academic matters while he completes a three-year sports science degree.
Having returned from a season with Glenn Hoddle’s Academy in Spain, a fruitless search for a deal in England persuaded Thomson to rejoin academia at Loughborough University in 2012.
He added: “Football was still part-time and, when I looked at my options, I thought I needed something as a back-up.
“I got in at Loughborough on the back of the UCAS points I got from my scholarship at Forest.
“I’ll complete my degree from distance and go in when I can. I’ve got friends there and tutors will send me work.
“The season ends in April, so I’ll have a month or so before my final exams to revise.”
Rejection by Forest - despite finishing his final season as second top scorer - and unhappy spells at Hinckley and Histon almost drove Thomson out of football.
“I think those thoughts do crop up in your mind,” he said. “I went to Hinckley first and the manager there didn’t play me and then I went to a team a couple of leagues below which was a whole new experience for me.
“There are always hard times, but settling at King’s Lynn was a key moment because being in that same environment meant I could concentrate on my football and build up relationships with the players and coaches.
“Settling down was key for me being able to improve.”
With confidence restored and a stable platform to build on, Thomson made more than 120 appearances for the Linnets.
Following his return from Chester last summer, the attacking midfielder’s form went into overdrive, finding the net a staggering 21 times for the Evo-stik Premier League club.
He said: “I’ve played everywhere across midfield, but this season I went up front early on, predominantly as number 10 playing off the main striker.
“I scored in the first game of pre-season and then scored in eight straight games. If your confidence is high, things fall for you and everything I hit seemed to go in.”
Within a week of signing for Chester, Thomson was making his second substitute appearance for the first team in wins over Kidderminster and Lincoln.
A regular starting spot and goals are the next aim, but after a bumpy baptism in football he has already learned not to look too far ahead.
“When I was younger I tried to plan exactly what I was going to do in football, but I don’t think you can,” he said.
“You just have to take it day-to-day, enjoy the experience and see what happens.”