Memories of mum driving Callum Hassan on
Callum Hassan hopes to return to the Football League – inspired by the memory of his late mother.
The powerful AFC Telford United striker is just 22 but has been through turmoil many people double his age haven't experienced.
Adopted at just three months old, he looked all set to earn a big-money move to Premier League Newcastle when his life was turned upside down after losing his mother.
The overwhelming grief he suffered at the loss of the only parent he'd ever known saw him quit the game he loves and become a virtual hermit for a year, gorging himself on chocolate until he opened an Afro-Caribbean restaurant in Hartlepool.
But the combination of encouragement from friends and a fresh desire to play again and the memory of his late mother spurred him into returning to the game.
"I was at Hartlepool playing well and a few Premier League clubs – Newcastle, Everton and a few more were showing an interest, and a six-figure bid was made by Newcastle," said Hassan.
"But then my mum died. It was a shock – one day I went shopping and the next I was sitting in hospital with her.
"I had no father figure, she took me on when I was only three months old so she was all I ever knew. I have brothers and sisters but they're all in London and I was on my own up north.
"It was heartbreaking. When you're so young and haven't got anyone else supporting you or to talk to, it's hard.
"I think it was about two weeks after when it hit me and I just couldn't do anything.
"I was very down and I ended up out of the game. Football had been my life but I didn't want to talk about it or watch it.
"I couldn't go out and I wasn't myself at all. I don't drink – I was 18 the last time I had a drink – I just didn't do anything apart from sit at home and eat chocolate.
"I think that went on for six months to a year and I was out of the game for nearly two years."
Around this time, Hassan was released by Hartlepool, and rather than stay in the game, he decided on a complete break after trials at Notts County and Huddersfield came to nothing when he'd injured his ankle.
"Not playing was hard, but I walked away from it and set up my own business," he said.
"I had a restaurant, helping out on the quiet days trying to be a chef but I don't think it worked! I just cut the salad!"
But it wasn't long until the powerful pull of football lured him back.
"I couldn't ignore the game – every Saturday when your mates are talking about the results, I was thinking 'I need to be back on that pitch'," he said.
"Everyone – my agent, my mates, football friends such as Marlon Harewood – were all saying 'why are you giving it up? You could make a good living out of the game'. So I decided to give it another shot.
"During pre-season, I decided to quit everything else and get back into football.
"Losing everything was hard so getting back into the game is helping me. I got a trial at Portsmouth and there was talk of getting a contract there but I didn't get one.
"I wondered whether I'd made a big mistake then I got fixed up at Kidderminster and made an impact in the Conference. Unfortunately they couldn't come up with the right contract."
Telford – through the persistence of assistant boss Larry Chambers – did though, with a short-term deal to January.
And if he can deliver the goods, Hassan is hoping for another crack at the Football League, so he can show his mum what he can do.
"I want to get back into the Football League because I know she'd be proud of me if I did that," he said.
"She used to watch me all the time, standing on the sidelines shouting.
"She was a really good friend as well – I could tell her anything – and that's why it was so hard. After going through that, I don't think anything can affect me."
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