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Spotlight: From Scholar to Pro

Will Boyle

Will Boyle is a professional football player, currently playing as a centre-back for Cheltenham Town. After completing his scholarship, Will signed for Huddersfield Town, spending the next 3 years with the team and loan spells at Kidderminster, Macclesfield, York City and Kilmarnock.

Also studying part-time for a degree, Will is a player-delegate at his current club and a community champion too. Here, Will shares some insights with us on what it’s like going from being a scholar to playing as a pro.

Will, what was the biggest difference going from a scholar to a pro?

At Huddersfield, I went straight into the under-23 squad, so it wasn’t a massive change for me initially until I went out on loan to Kilmarnock. Playing there was my first experience of a full-time, first-team environment and the biggest difference for me was the pressure from the manager. They’re dependent on your performance for their job, and you need to win games because there are three points on the line, every week. The competitive side of the game becomes more important and the priority shifts more towards winning games rather than development.

Have there been any challenges?

The game is far more physical in the lower divisions and feels more competitive, which can be a challenge when you’re not used to playing that way. I’d never really played for Huddersfield’s first team, but I got a taste of that style of playing when on loan in Scotland. This meant I was better prepared for what was to come.

Did you get any support from the PFA?

Yes, I’ve spoken to counsellors and I went to the ‘Making The Transition’ workshop a few years ago when I was 20. There weren’t many people there who were at a similar stage in their career as me, but I found it very insightful as it pushed me towards starting my degree. I’m doing a part-time degree in Business Management in Sport at the Open University, after taking an interest in the business side of a microbrewery set up by my girlfriend’s family.

What was the best part of signing your first professional contract?

I had dreamed of signing a professional football contract since I was a boy, so the status of being a professional was probably the best part for me. Looking back, there were minimal differences from being a second-year scholar in terms of lifestyle, but the status made all the difference. 

What advice would you give to any players in their first year out of the academy?

I’d say be open to learning and talking to older professionals to try and get as much information as you can about football. I’ve always been an avid learner, looking for more knowledge about the tactical and psychological side of the game. I think it’s really important to ask a lot of questions too.

How should scholars prepare for their debuts next season?

It’s different at different clubs. You’ll go straight into the first team if you sign for clubs like Cheltenham, so you need to be prepared to train every day. You need to have the attitude that you’re a first team player as you try for a place in the team. At Huddersfield I knew I was going into the under-23 squad where I wasn’t going to train with the first team every day, so I felt that gave me an extra year to develop physically and mentally. When I did start playing regular first-team football, I came into the teams as a young man rather than an 18- year old boy, and that made a big difference for me.

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