A YOUNG footballer who was told he was too small to make it in the professional game has earned a scholarship with a Football League side.
Sam Muggleton played for Leicester City’s schoolboy sides for several seasons after leaving his first club Syston.
But after a season with the Foxes under 12s, he was rejected because of his size.
Yet Sam is now potentially two years from earning a professional contract after League Two side Gillingham awarded him a two-year scholarship.
He said: “Martin (Allen) said come down and have a trial. I played a couple of times and Martin took me into his office and offered me the scholarship.
“I just smiled when I got the news. I was buzzing.”
The 16-year-old, who plays mostly at left-back, is the son of former professional goalkeeper Carl.
Muggleton Snr was on the books of top sides such as Liverpool and Celtic, but is best known locally for his years of service with Leicester City.
He is delighted his youngest son has a shot at a professional career, but has told him he must grasp the chance with both hands.
He said: “I’ve just told him to enjoy it and work hard and whatever happens, happens.
“It’s a great life. It can be difficult, particularly for family life, and there is a lot of hard work, but it gives you chances to meet people and go to different places that you may not have otherwise had.
“Hopefully Sam can progress and have a decent career in football, but at whatever level he reaches, it’s good for him and for his life skills.”
In recent seasons, Sam had been learning the game at Holwell Sports with their under 18s and reserves sides, alongside older brother Tom, and made his first team debut earlier this season.
But it was during training sessions at Notts County where he first caught the eye of manager Martin Allen.
The link was severed when Allen was sacked by the Magpies last February, but when he took over at Gillingham in July another door opened for the teenager.
As well as a new full-time role in football, the scholarship also brings another change in lifestyle as Sam swaps his Queniborough home for digs in Kent.
He added: “My head dropped after I was released by Leicester, but I went to other clubs and my confidence is back up again now.
“It’s a very big opportunity and I’ve just got to knuckle down, work hard and take my chance while I’ve got it.
“I wasn’t expecting the football to be as quick as it is, but I’ve got used to it pretty quickly.
“When I was called up to Holwell’s first team I found that hard at first strength-wise as well. I’m grateful for the opportunity there.”
Carl is also working with Allen, known as Mad Dog, for the second time as goalkeeping coach at the Kent club.
But his role as his son’s motivator and mentor is an equally important position.
Sam said: “Watching my dad play over the years made me want to be a footballer too.
“Each time I play I always ask him what I could’ve done better. He tells me about my positioning and how I could have prevented making any mistakes I made.”