Worth Shouting About
New Mexico United
When I landed in New Mexico four years ago, my first impression was how proud people are of this state.
I had been to Albuquerque before. When I was in college at UNC Charlotte, the University of New Mexico was part of our conference, but whenever we’d make the trip for a game, we stayed in the hotel, we’d go and play the game, and then we’d leave.
We didn't really get a very accurate representation.
I wish we had, because I just remember early on the people that I spoke to around the city were incredibly welcoming. They wanted to share everything great about the place and pass on what to do and where to go.
It showed a real pride and a sense of love for where the people of this place are, and what they represent. It was such a cool thing, not something you necessarily see everywhere, and I was very appreciative.
Getting to represent those people and that attitude as part of New Mexico United over the past three years has been a gift, and one I don’t take lightly. As my dad always said, no matter what, you go until that last whistle blows. You have to keep running, you have to keep going, because somebody has worked all week and they've put their money into a ticket to be at that game.
You can be having a great game, your touch can be on, or your touch can be off, and it can be bouncing off your shin. But you can always guarantee you will run more than the opponent opposite you.
That's something I do try to do, every single game.
I grew up in Warrington in the northwest of England. It’s a small, blue-collar town. Me and my dad were both born in the same hospital, and the city’s sport is rugby. My dad played, and I think if I had immersed myself in the rugby culture early on, that would have been my sport.
But I was surrounded by football. While the Warrington Wolves are the big team in the city as our Rugby League club, we’re half-an-hour from Old Trafford, half-an-hour from the Etihad, half-an-hour from Goodison Park, and half-an-hour from Anfield.
The game was never hard to find.
My mates were all big, big football fans, and I think ultimately that was what drew me in. I wasn’t part of an Academy back then, but I got called up to the England Schoolboys team, and that was the start of the journey I’m now on.
We played Northern Ireland at Bristol City’s stadium, and I had a blinder, Man of the Match. What I didn’t know at the time was UNC Charlotte’s Kevin Langan – who used to play at the club – had scouts at the game, looking for potential recruits. Three months later, I was enrolled in classes on the other side of the Atlantic.
It was tough. I never make any kind of airs or graces about that.
The game was bigger, it was stronger, it was quicker. Back then, I loved to be on the ball, and this was the first time in my life I really had to learn and understand how to play in a team, how to play in a system. You’ve got a certain job to do, and your teammates have got a job to do. If you all do your job, we’ll win the game.
It was a real education, learning to be a cog in a wheel, and it was hard for my pride if I’m being honest. But it was a great learning curve for me to be a better teammate and understand the game better. It made the chance to become a professional here in New Mexico real, as my coaching and preparation in Charlotte was very professional. They said, this is how it's going to be. This is how you're going to be treated. They wanted to prepare us, give us a chance to take that next step.
In many ways, the transition to college soccer was more difficult than to the pros.
That was partly thanks to Kevin Langan and his staff, and then Troy Lesesne, our former Head Coach here in New Mexico. He was phenomenal for me in those first years as a professional, helping me understand the pro game, helping me understand the pro season and what that looks like and how to best look after yourself physically.
He also opened my eyes to a completely different way of approaching the game.
Yes, I still needed to be the strongest, fastest and have as much enjoyment as I could, but I also needed to retain possession and lead as well.
I feel very fortunate for those experiences, giving me different approaches to the game that I've been able to absorb, and carry forward with United.
Football aside, I also loved the environment in New Mexico.
I want to be somebody who brings joy to situations. That might not sound particularly humble, but I’m also somebody who doesn't take himself too seriously or thinks he’s bigger or better than anyone else.
I like to meet people where they are, learn from them and understand them. I think that's something I got from my parents, and now I’m in a place where I still find that energy pushing me on. New Mexican people are solid, hard-working. There's a lot of good things to shout about here, and they're the characteristics that I want to show on the field.
I think that's something maybe the fans can relate to.
I might not be the tallest guy, maybe not the quickest. I’m not always going to rack up goals and assists, but I’m somebody who whether he plays one minute at the end of the game, or he's playing the full 90, he's going to try, and he'll try his hardest.
That was why it was such an honor to be voted the club’s Somos Unidos award winner last year. It was honestly one of the biggest moments of my professional career and life, to think people see me in that light as somebody who lives up to our ethos of hard work, humility, and diligence.
I wish I could live up to those three standards all day, every day.
I would be a liar if I said that I do.
But something that was important to me was my teammates got to vote on that as well. Those guys see me every day. They see me at my best, and they see me at my worst. While I might not live up to that standard every single day, they know that I at least try, and encourage others to do it as well.
Warrington’s always going to be home, but New Mexico’s starting to feel the same. It's an incredible place, the people and the scenery are phenomenal. I can sit in my room, look out the window, and the Sandia Mountains are 10 minutes away. There are lots of locally owned business as well, which I love. It reminds me how people continue to pour their heart and soul into local business the way we put our heart and soul on the field every week.
That’s why this is where I want to pursue my dreams.
This is where I can give the people of this state something to be proud of.
This is where I want to win.
From The Pitch aims to provide a platform for individuals within the USL to share their thoughts on things that matter most to them – at the crossroads of life and the beautiful game. USL partner Bellevue University is committed to empowering motivated students to explore their passions, impact change in their communities and chase their dreams.