DERRY City starlet, Joshua Tracey, believes his decision to reject approaches from Nottingham Forest last year have finally paid off as he spent a ‘dream’ seven days trial with his boyhood heroes, Manchester United last week.
The highly rated 17-year-old swapped the moderate surroundings of Brandywell Stadium for the world class facilities at the Premiership giants’ state-of-the-art Carrington training ground where he rubbed shoulders with Rio Ferdinand and former United star, turned coach, Nicky Butt.
A host of Premiership clubs have declared an interest in the ‘Candy Stripes’ rising talent of late and Josh was over the moon when he got wind of the news that United had approached the Lone Moor Road club enquiring about his availability for a trial and assessment period at Old Trafford.
Everton Football Club also invited Josh for a trial and although a slight groin injury curtailed his time at Goodison, he will return to the club over the next couple of weeks.
The Galliagh teenager and life-long ‘Red Devils’ supporter, admitted having to pinch himself when he was handed the famous No. 7 shirt at his first practise match at Carrington where he lined up alongside current United centre half, Ferdinand, as he soaked up being a United player for the week!
“I was wearing the number seven training shirt and it was surreal,” said Josh last night. “When you think of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo wearing it, you just think to yourself, ‘this is mental,’ but it was unbelievable and I enjoyed every minute of it.
“It was a very enjoyable experience, the first time I’ve ever been away so I had a ball.
“My entire family are Man United fans so as soon as we heard it was happening I just couldn’t believe it and it still hasn’t sunk in.”
Josh was blown away by the standard of facilities during his time in Manchester and he was delighted with the feedback from the coaching staff after his training sessions.
“I was training with the Reserves and U-21s and on my first day there and Rio Ferdinand was actually in my team in the match so I wasn’t expecting that and it was a really, really good experience.
“Nicky Butt is involved with the U-21s and he took the training sessions. I met all the staff and everyone at Carrington, players and staff were all brilliant.
“It was overwhelming and everybody treats each other with respect. Carrington’s set-up is just world class. When I arrived the place looked like a hotel, it’s just a really good place to play football.
“The coaches told me that, technically, I was right up there with the top players and that this was neither the end or the beginning - it was an opportunity for me to get an insight into the club and for the club to get an insight into what I’m like as a person and a player.
“They said they were very interested so I’ll just wait and see how it goes and keep working hard on my game.”
Championship club, Nottingham Forest came knocking for Josh last year but after much deliberation, he decided to reject those approaches in favour of signing a two-year professional contract with his home town club.
And for his loyalty, Josh was repaid by then Derry manager, Declan Devine, who sensationally fast-trackedhim into the Brandywell first team squad last April.
Currently studying Sports Coaching and Development at the North-West Regional College, Josh believes he made the right decision to refuse a trial move to Forest back then as he wanted to remain in Derry while concentrating on his school studies.
“It was too early for that move to Forest,” said Josh. “It was a big, big decision to turn down the trial and at the time my head was all over the show. I had something telling me to stay because I wasn’t ready yet and it’s worked out okay in the end.
“This is exactly what I wanted to happen so I think I made the right decision and I’m happy I stayed in Derry.
“I didn’t need to move house and playing along with the senior team was amazing so I was delighted. But I think I’m ready now!”
The N. Ireland U-18 international clearly has a bright future ahead of him and despite his experience at Old Trafford and his dream of eventually securing a full-time contract with a cross-Channel club, he is happy to bide his time knowing his career is in good hands with the Derry City coaching staff.
“I’ve just started in my second year with Derry so I don’t have to go anywhere to be honest. I’m only 17 years old.
“I’ll be returning to Everton to complete my trial in about two weeks time. It is another great club and it has that Irish and Derry connection so we’ll see how things turn out,” he concluded.