Ben Chilcott ready for his next challenge
The world of football is incredibly harsh, and many find the ability to break through into the senior level of the game a step too far to take.
However, this wasn’t the case for Newport youngster Ben Chilcott, who managed to climb his way into the footballing world in a rather unconventional fashion.
Following spells at Shrewsbury, West Bromwich Albion and Oxford’s youth systems, Chilcott found himself looking for a new club at the age of 18.
That club happened to be in the form of IFK Holmsund in the Swedish third division, a club that former Wales international Vinnie Jones played for.
The differences in the style of football were obvious straight away to Chilcott, as he adapted to life in a new country.
Chilcott said: “The big difference for me was the physical side of the game. In England you’ve always got to be quick with your body, be quick and strong to deal with bigger players, whereas in Sweden it was much more of a technical game.
“You wouldn’t be looking at your opponents thinking you’ll have a physical advantage over their smaller players, it’s more thinking about how good they’re going to be on the ball. So it’s a lot more technical as they wanted to keep the ball.
“In England you often look to play the ball over the top or play channel balls for your striker to run in behind, but in Sweden you want to keep the ball and draw players out of position and then play round and through them on the floor.”
Playing in different European leagues is often something many young aspiring footballers want to achieve, and often aren’t able to complete, and Chilcott found the experience to be very beneficial.
“It was very enjoyable playing out in Sweden, there’s many different aspects to it mainly living in a different country which was a massive experience for me and was as helpful as playing football,” he said.
“My team-mates helped me to learn some Swedish as well which was huge as it helped me to settle. But in terms of football it was very good, there’s massive focus on the technical side of the game, so it was a completely new style of coaching that I was getting which helped me to grow as a player.
“It helped me to learn new skills and tactics and has made me look at the game in a different way. In England, you’re very drilled to play how the coach wants you to play whereas there’s more freedom in Sweden.”
Chilcott spent a year playing out in Scandinavia and the return to England was a difficult experience.
The Swedish league runs at a different time of the year compared to the English leagues, so clubs were already sorted in terms of players.
Chilcott added: “It was quite challenging getting back into the game as I arrived back in England around October. The season here was already in full flow so now I had to try and break into a team that’s already got a settled squad.
“It took a while to get set back up, I went on trials at quite a few places and some worked and some didn’t as teams already had players in my position so it was all about trying to find the right team.”
But after a few trials, Chilcott finally found a home for his footballing development at Whitchurch Alport.
Chilcott has spent the last year-and-a-half playing for the club, and has massively enjoyed his time at the North West Counties League Premier Division club.
“I played a few games with Stafford Rangers which was a great experience, and then got involved with Whitchurch which was a great set up.
“It felt much more like a family club which was great for me to get back into the swing of things to help build my confidence back up.
“They offered me the chance to get back playing again, and I was enjoying it so that was huge for me as it offered a place for me to get my feet back on to the ground and playing football again.”
Just as Chilcott appeared to getting back into the game and playing regularly, a freakish injury ended his career.
Chilcott said: “I didn’t start this game, but an early red card meant that I came on to help shore things up. We got through to half-time, but in the second half I was shielding the ball out of play and someone came round the side of me and almost took me out. Sadly it resulted in a broken leg and broken ankle, as well as snapping tendons and ligaments. It required me to go straight to A+E for surgery so now I’ve had to have plates and screws in my leg.”
This was a life-changing moment for the 20-year-old, and meant a shift in focus away from football, something he had never had to considered before.
“This was a big thing for me as I’ve been playing football all my life,” he added.
“That’s always been my main focus and to get told that you’re not going to play again is massive and changes your outlook on a lot of things.
“I’ve now had to go and get myself sorted into another job. Luckily I’ve got an apprenticeship now so hopefully I can kick on and get my work career started, but I’ve also got to continue with the rehab I’m doing now.
“You never know what’s going to happen next. You think you’re set with what you’re doing and things can just suddenly change, but it has toughened me up a bit as you’re having to deal with a life-changing event.”