YORK City’s new striker Ben Everson has travelled the world to fulfil his lifetime ambition of becoming a professional footballer in England – just 50 miles from home.
Middlesbrough-born Everson, who made his City debut as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with Aldershot last Saturday, played Northern League football for Guisborough Town and Shildon before crossing the Atlantic to represent West Texas A&M University for five years.
Following a trial in Israel, he played for Icelandic premier division Breidablik last year before, at the age of 25, he decided it might be an ideal time to try his luck on more familiar shores.
On his little-worn journey from Teesside to North Yorkshire, Everson said: “I did not think playing in England would be a possibility but I wanted to give it a try and contacted an agent after the season ended in Iceland in September and he said he could sort me out with a trial at York.
“I think any boy that grows up in England always wants to be a professional footballer but my route there has been a bit strange. I have been joking with my family that I’ve had to go all the way to America and Iceland to make it and I’ve ended up signing for a club just an hour from home but I’d like to thank the manager for giving me that chance.
“I’ve been really impressed with all the lads and coaching and am enjoying my time at the club.”
Everson was briefly on the books of then Football League outfit Darlington at the age of 12 but, having not gone on to graduate through the normal academy path to the professional ranks, feels that has made him hungrier to be successful at his later stage of life.
He added: “I was not given a lot of chances that other lads were when I was younger and, if it was not for getting an opportunity to play professionally in Iceland last season, I’m sure York would not have taken me on trial. It’s good to get an opportunity that did not look likely and I am determined to do well.”
Off the pitch in the USA, Everson earned himself a sports science degree and was halfway through a Masters course in kinesiology (human kinetics) before the opportunity came to play in Iceland.
“There were a lot of good players over there,” he said of his five years in America. “In our team, there were players from Denmark, South Africa and Portugal and the coaching was good so I learned a lot.”
Had it not been for restrictions on overseas players, Everson might also have been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Thierry Henry, David Beckham and Robbie Keane.
“I tried to play in MLS and went on trial with Kansas City Chiefs and San Jose Earthquakes but they did not want to use a foreign spot on me because they only get eight so that’s why that ended,” he explained. “I also went on trial with a team in Israel but got injured the first time I went out there.
“Basically, I’ve taken every opportunity to go wherever football has taken me.”
In Iceland, Everson was tackling teams including the likes of former Premier League pair Nigel Quashie and Joey Gudjonsson, as well as one-time Championship performer Tomi Ameobi, in front of 2,000-strong crowds during his first taste of top-flight football in a country.
On that experience, he said: “It was fantastic. It’s a good, up-and-coming league and all the teams try to play football.
“When I first went over there, I signed for a club Tindastoll that had been just promoted from the third division to the second and we were expected to struggle.
“The newspapers were saying we were only going to win two games all season but, after ten, we were fourth in the table and I was the top scorer in the league.
“I then went to one of the biggest clubs in Iceland, Breidablik, and played in the premier division and we qualified for the Europa League.”
Following his spell in the Nordic country, you would expect the current cold snap to present few problems for City’s transfer window recruit but, as he explains, he did not experience the extremes of Icelandic weather when temperatures can plummet to -30 degrees, saying: “It was pretty cold in April when I first went out there and when I was leaving as well, but the season lasts from May to September and the weather is all right then.
“The rest of the year is freezing but, luckily, I wasn’t over there in winter time.”
On top of his international odyssey, Everson has also played futsal in the past for Middlesbrough.
And he was convinced all professionals would benefit from playing the five-a-side game that uses a smaller, heavier ball.
Everson even claimed that England boss Roy Hodgson would have greater talent at his disposal if that was the case.
“Futsal is a fantastic game,” he added.
“It helps sharpness, as well as your movement and ball control and, if more English lads played futsal, we would have a better national team.”
He is now placing all his focus on the 11-a-side game, however, as he strives to make an impression for the Minstermen in League Two.
On that challenge, he said: “It’s hard to have any expectations.
“I just want to play as much football as I can at this level and, as soon as I have played a few games, I will know how well I can do.”
• JAMEEL IBLE has signed for York City until the end of the season.
The teenage defender, who impressed in Tuesday’s pre-season loss against Scunthorpe United at Bootham Crescent, has moved from Evo-Stik League first division side Salford City, where he had been a regular in the first team.