Interview: Swindon Town attacker Kayden Jackson

Sports Mole speaks to Swindon Town attacker Kayden Jackson, who got his break in the professional game via Samsung's 'Win A Pro Contract' competition.

Whatever happens to Wayne Rooney over the coming weeks, he knows that at the start of the season he will still be picking up his reported £250,000 each week. The amount may be different, but the same goes for the likes of Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Thiago Alcantara. It's not really a hardship, is it?

At the other end of the spectrum and on the Professional Footballers' Association website, the number of footballers without a club, and therefore work, right now is somewhat alarming. Some figures suggest that at the end of the most recent campaign, 700 players were placed on the scrapheap. Unfortunately, it's becoming a worrying trend with each passing summer.

While some are experienced pros who have families to feed and mortgages to pay, others are unknown youngsters that have had their childhood dreams of becoming a footballer dashed.

Someone that is only too aware of how it feels to be placed in the latter category is Kayden Jackson – a 19-year-old from Bradford.

Kayden Jackson in action during his Samsung trial.

Jackson has experienced the pain of football rejection, more than once. He has spent time on trial with his hometown side Bradford City, Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United. While each club claimed to be impressed, none was willing to back that up.

"To be honest, I never imagined that it would happen for me. It's obviously something that you want and that you work towards, but you never imagine that you will get the chance one day. I went on trial at a few clubs like Blackburn and each of them told me that they liked what they saw, but they couldn't offer me anything at the time. That's hard and that's why you never imagine it happening for you," he told Sports Mole.

"It's frustrating, especially because I felt as though I didn't get the chance to show everything I've got. It's very hard, but if you love playing football and that is what you want to do you've just got to keep going. After the rejections, I just continued as normal – training and playing.

"At most clubs there are quite a few people on trial. I can't count how many trialists there were at trials I've been on. It's difficult not knowing what you are going to be doing for the next year or two. It's a very hard period when you're on trial."

While Jackson was able to take the disappointment on the chin and with a stiff upper lip, others do not possess such mental strength. It is believed that up to 150 former footballers are currently serving time behind bars as they struggle to cope with life away from the game. Not that Jackson could have got by on his own.

The final Samsung XI pose for a team photo.

"Family are massively important. I've got quite a lot of uncles and a big family and they have always told me that I'm good enough and that something will happen. When they were telling me this I doubted them because I thought they were only saying it because they are my family," he admitted.

"I've played football with most of my friends in my spare time and that has helped me because some of them are good players as well. Having a good family and friends definitely helps."

It was after his latest failed trial that Jackson had started to consider another career path. He had undergone a fitness instructor course and had been offered a job in a gym when he was made aware of Samsung's 'Win A Pro Contract' competition.

The attacker was one of over 5,000 entrants, but following numerous trial periods and matches, he did enough to impress Swindon Town manager Kevin MacDonald. He then signed a one-year professional deal that would come into force during the ongoing pre-season period. But after so many let downs, did he ever expect that he could stand out in such a big field?

"Not at all, no. Going through the trial games you saw that there were so many good players around. I just thought that I'd do my best and wherever that gets me I'll take it. Fortunately I had a good few games in front of the scouts," said the youngster.

"It was probably when I got in the final three [I thought that I could win]. When I got into the 11 it was a big shock, but when I heard I was in the final three I thought that I couldn't walk away from this with nothing. I just put it all in. It was amazing.

Kayden Jackson being unveiled as a Swindon Town player.

"I didn't mind which team (the other winner, Jack Sherratt, joined Leyton Orient) it was going to be. It was more the fact that I was signing for a professional club – that is all that mattered. They are both good clubs and they showed that by where they finished in the table last year. It was the best feeling."

Last year's winner, Chris Smith, is one of those players that has been placed on the clogged-up free transfer market in recent weeks. He made just one appearance for the Robins and spent time on loan with local club Swindon Supermarine and Northampton Town.

While Jackson, who highlights his pace and ability to beat defenders as his main assets, is under no illusion as to how difficult it will be to make an impact at the County Ground, he is just hoping to improve as the weeks and months go on.

"It's been tough so far, but it's been a good experience. I'm just looking forward to getting even more training in and getting sharper as the weeks go by. A lot of the lads that have come in from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and clubs like that have said that this is one of the hardest pre-seasons that they've ever had," said the frontman.

"There are quite a few strikers around the place and it is good that you can watch them and learn from them every day. I've spoke to [MacDonald] a few times and he has given me some tips to help me improve my game. He has told me when I've done good things in training but he's also let me know when I've done things that are not so good. He's told me what I should be doing, which is a big help.

"There are quite a few big names and quality players in the squad so when you don't do something well in training, they'll tell you. I prefer to be told rather than nobody saying anything because it helps me to learn.

"I like to use my pace but modern football is not all about pace and it is about using your head. I like to attack defenders and give them no time to rest on the ball. I try to use my pace whenever I can, but I don't want to be too predictable.

Kayden Jackson with Samsung ambassador Matt Le Tissier.

"As the training goes on I will get a lot sharper and my match fitness will improve – that's the first target. I'd love to be able to force my way into the senior squad but I know that isn't going to be easy, especially with all the strikers and wingers that are at the club already. If that means that I have to go on loan to a local club then I would do that. I'm just going to see where it all takes me really but the main thing I want to do is improve.

"I've been on a few trials and played in the non-league - some people would have probably given up. I'm just looking to use all those experiences to help me progress. Hopefully I can make this permanent and play professional football for a long time in the future."

But what about the youngsters among those 700 that would look upon his situation enviously?

"If they know that they want to be playing football day in and day out, you've got to continue doing what you are doing. Some people will have friends that do negative stuff, but you can't get into that. You can have fun with your friends, but you've got to stay dedicated and switched on. It's all about continuing to work hard and then you never know," advised Jackson.

"At the time I was just grateful for the clubs for letting me go on trial, having the experience of a professional club and using their facilities. I can imagine that some players are finding it hard going from one club to another on trial. It's not always a nice feeling.

"To be honest I always had in my head that I would just play football. I set myself the target of playing at the highest level possible. If that was the level I was playing at last year or somewhere like Bradford Park Avenue in the Conference North then so be it. I was always going to keep going and just see where it took me."

There are three professional contracts up for grabs in Samsung 'Win A Pro Contract' 2013-14. Register for a trial at www.facebook.com/samsungfootball now.

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