British footballers plying their trade in a new country has been something of a rarity in the last thirty years. This small pool of exceptions is narrowed even further when you consider those who embark upon such a journey away from the comforts of home in their formative years.

Aaron Leacock, 19, has taken the opportunity to not just be another exception, but to pioneer the next generation of young British footballers eager for a new challenge. Helping him fulfil this ambition is Global Sports Recruitment (GSR), a sports recruitment agency which helps young athletes secure scholarships at American universities and colleges - laying the foundations for a fruitful academic and sporting career.

A product of GSR, Leacock has recently committed to a scholarship to Campbellsville University in Kentucky. But he would not be where he is if he did not take a chance on his own abilities. 

Leacock said: “Football’s always been my love and for all my friends as well. So when my friend found GSR online and told me they were hosting trials, we all thought ‘why not?’

“I actually ended up being the only one out of my friends to go to the trials. At first, I was very nervous – especially after meeting Dave McPherson, an ex-professional footballer. After that, I knew these guys had high expectations.”

But Leacock rose to those expectations and impressed. He was then invited to the interview stage where he immediately won over Simone Erici, a director of GSR.

“The first thing he said to me was that I came dressed the smartest out of everyone which is always a good start,” Leacock said.

It was only a couple of days after the interview that Leacock was told he would be accepted by the agency but he would still have to wait five months to prove himself on the pitch.

It was at the showcase in Scotland in December where Leacock truly made his mark. After some encouraging performances, he began to receive offers in January and ended up committing to Kentucky in February.

But while Leacock’s journey to GSR has been smooth sailing thus far, his footballing transition has been anything but. Leacock started out as a striker but since he’s been with GSR, he has assumed more defensive roles either as a centre-back or a defensive midfielder. 

Yet, his professionalism and love for the game has made this switch from one end of the pitch to the other almost seamless.

Leacock said: “I have a good understanding of the game because I've watched it so much, I know what each position requires.

“As an attacker, I was comfortable with the ball so it’s easy to keep my composure in the back. Every game I play I’m getting more and more comfortable.

“There’s still a part of me that loves scoring goals – that’ll never go. But I also love being able to help the team in other ways.”

His unique positional change has drawn comparisons with one of the world’s greatest defenders and Leacock is not shy about living up to those standards.

“A lot of my friends compare me to Virgil van Dijk,” he explained.  

“I’m fast for a centre-back and I like to stay on my feet but also put in some strong tackles. I watch van Dijk clips on YouTube so it is something that I still do practice.”

As for his aspirations, Leacock wants to make a name for himself in the States but his eyes are fixed on a return to English football.

Leacock said: “I think the MLS is up and coming and is going to get more and more attention so I would love to play there.

“But my overall dream – if I could be anything – I would be a Premier League footballer simply because I grew up idolising those players”

The coronavirus pandemic is all that stands between Leacock and his dream. But for now, he remains disciplined and patiently waiting for the day he can start his journey in Kentucky.

When asked whether he would recommend playing and studying abroad to get into professional football, Leacock was unequivocal in his advice.

“I’d definitely recommend it. It’s an opportunity to get an education and fulfil that dream of playing football. An added bonus is living in America and getting a taste of that lifestyle,” Leacock declared.

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