The feeling of rejection has become more and more alien to Ben Chilwell over the past couple of years.
It’s a hard thing to believe that clubs would turn down a player who would go on to be England’s stand-out choice at left-back, especially one who has just signed for Chelsea for £50million.
But after the 23-year-old became the third most-expensive English footballer of all-time, he will no doubt cast his mind back to the early days playing five-a-side football in Milton Keynes as a youngster.
Left back Ben Chilwell has completed a £50million move to Chelsea from Leicester City
He has become a regular England international after his star performances for the Foxes
The defender grew up in Buckinghamshire and represented several youth teams including Worburn Lions and Bletchley Youth.
Chilwell’s performances in central midfield certainly caught the eye but he also would also play casually on Power League pitches with the likes of Tottenham’s Dele Alli and former Everton star Brendan Galloway, who all grew up in the same area.
A lot of his early success was down to his father, Wayne, who put him through rigorous training and fitness sessions.
Wayne did not know much about football back then. Having emigrated from New Zealand, Chilwell Snr knew more about tennis, rugby and cricket – but his son’s enthusiasm for football was all he needed to become his son’s mentor growing up.
Chilwell was a promising player as a youngster and trained for hours in the park with his father, but suffered a handful of set-backs during his early years
Speaking about difficult days in Leicester’s academy, Chilwell Junior told the Players’ Tribune last December: ‘We’d go to the park for two hours and just kick the ball against a wall.
‘I’d hit passes and stare at the clock across the street, until exactly two hours would pass, and then I’d go home. He’d make me go running to keep my fitness up.
‘He knew talent and he knew sport. But he never got the chance to go after his dream because he had to start working for his family.
‘I think, looking back, he saw a lot of himself in me. And he didn’t want to me to fall short of my potential.’
And what Chilwell learned most from his father was the ability to bounce back. The left-back describes his dad of having a ‘Kiwi mentality’ of never giving up and always pushing yourself.
Chilwell has gone from a boy playing in Buckinghamshire parks to an England international
It meant when local side MK Dons turned him down, he was not disheartened. After a successful trial, Leicester City came calling soon after that disappointment, which gave him his chance at academy level.
In fact, the only reason why Chilwell nearly gave up football as a youngster is because he was good at other sports. England’s first-choice left-back believes he was arguably better at cricket than he was at football.
He told the Guardian: ‘I was in the Northants academy set-up and went to Loughborough University for three days for an ECB young Talents [event].
‘Then started playing men’s cricket when I was 15. That’s when I stopped enjoying it.
‘It was long days, 50-over games with men 15 years older who you don’t really have anything in common with, all talking about going to the pub.’
Chilwell (right) rose up through the youth teams for both Leicester City and England
So Leicester City was his next journey, which put particular travel stress on his father.
The pair would drive to and from Buckinghamshire to Leicester for training, a total journey which covered over 100 miles each day.
That difficulty was coupled with another stress the youngster was facing. The then-central midfielder rarely got a game at under-14 and under-15 level. The Thursday car journeys were filled with arguments between father and son when Chilwell wasn’t picked on a matchday.
Wayne told his son he would never get anywhere with the level of effort he was showing, so it was back to the park for two hours of kicking a ball against a wall.
Chilwell was given his professional debut in 2015 in a League Cup match against Hull
Then came the shift to left-back – and that’s where be began to thrive. Under Leicester youth coaches Mark Jackson and Kevin Fogg, Chilwell had a run five or six games for the under-16s before he was made captain of the team.
A few years later and Chilwell was named as the club’s Academy Player of the Year in 2015 – their first in the Premier League for over a decade.
It was only a matter of time before his professional bow was set to arrive. Under Claudio Ranieri, Chilwell was given his professional debut in a 2015 League Cup match against Hull.
Then he was chosen to represent England Under-21s at the age of 18 and it was while on international duty when Huddersfield Town offered him a loan deal.
He joined the club just as his parent club were about to win the Premier League, but Chilwell learned more about the men’s game while at David Wagner’s Terriers than he would have done had he stayed with Jamie Vardy and Co.
His loan spell at Huddersfield (left) gave him real experience of men’s professional football
Speaking about his time in Yorkshire, Chilwell said: ‘David Wagner, the manager at Huddersfield, was the one who really put the confidence in me that I could play at a senior level.
‘He had seen a lot of talents when he was a coach in Dortmund with the youth teams – and he pulled me aside one day and told me I could be one of the great left backs one day if I kept working at it.
‘My play went up another level. At Huddersfield, I learned I could play at a professional level. That’s a special club.’
Upon his return to Leicester, the left-back hasn’t looked back. He beat title-winning defender Christan Fuchs to become the undisputed full-back option for the Foxes.
Now, Chilwell has competition to become the Premier League’s best left-back. None more so than Liverpool’s Andy Robertson , who had a similar story to him.
Chilwell’s story has been compared to Liverpool and Scotland star Andy Roberston’s (above)
Robertson was let go by Celtic at an earlier age before coming through the ranks at Scottish Third Division club Queen’s Park. Then he progressed up the ladder to Dundee United, Hull City before becoming a Premier League and Champions League-winning starter at Liverpool.
Speaking about their similar paths, Chilwell said: ‘I look at a guy like Andy Robertson at Liverpool. He has a great story.
‘(He) almost quit, like I did, kept at it, pushed himself past the limits he thought he had, and now he’s one of the best in the world.
‘I had a good chat with him a few months back at Trent Alexander-Arnold’s birthday dinner. I told him he’s class and whatnot and he said the same to me.
‘It was really cool to chat with him. And just to sort of pick his brain for a bit about football, it meant a lot to me.’
In fact, it could have easily been Chilwell in the Liverpool left-back slot rather than Robertson.
Jurgen Klopp (L) failed to sign Chilwell in 2017 and now his loss could end up being Frank Lampard’s gain after the Blues snapped him up
Following the successful loan spell at Huddersfield, Wagner couldn’t stop talking about Chilwell to Klopp, who was the best man at the German coach’s wedding.
‘Dave Wagner was in my ear pretty much every day, but Leicester didn’t want to let him go,’ said Klopp.
He then opted to sign Roberston from Hull that summer and Liverpool were presented with their first-choice left-back for years to come.
But with Chilwell becoming the third new recruit for Frank Lampard’s side ahead of a possible title scrap with Liverpool, the exciting England star could end up being the one who got away for Klopp.