Manchester United winger Daniel James almost walked away from football as a child because he “wasn’t enjoying it”.
“At the start, when I got to nearly 12 years old, I actually nearly gave up football,” he told Inside United. “I wasn’t enjoying it.
“I was telling my mum and dad: ‘I’d rather be playing other football’. Or I was missing [going] out with my mates. I was training most nights and was missing out. I was coming back from school and wanting to go out with my mates, but I had to go training.
“I had a serious meeting with the coaches at Hull [for them] to say: ‘No, we think you’ve got the ability and we want you to stay on here’. Thankfully, from there, I did stay on.”
At the age of 14, James was called up to the Wales youth team and was moved from the striker position to the wing – a decision that changed his career.
“There were times when I wasn’t enjoying it, but I think as a person I developed a lot, especially when I went to play my first game for Wales when I was 14,” he said.
“The first games were against Belgium and Switzerland, and that changed me as well because I used to play striker at Hull, and when I went away with Wales, I played as a winger.
“I think that’s why I’ve come to be a winger now. Otherwise, I think I’d play in a different position.”
Reflecting on the sacrifice he had to make to reach the English top-flight, James believes it is even more difficult for players progressing through youth academies now.
“Obviously, I did enjoy my football – it was just that I was missing out with friends,” he added. “But they are the sacrifices that sometimes you have to make as a footballer, to make it. I know nowadays there’s a lot more.
“I was training three times a week, where most boys now are training every day. That’s the sacrifice you’ve got to make. It is difficult, especially for parents as well.”