Released Birmingham youngster left with a difficult but common dilemma

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

Kris Heneage speaks to a young player left looking for a club after being let go over the summer...

Three weeks ago, Cesc Fabregas departed England and returned home to Barcelona - he leaves the country with a fluent grasp of the language and a more than healthy bank account. Having joined Arsenal aged sixteen, he represents the completed development of talent Arsenal had identified eight years previously, but for every foreign player that makes it, there are a great number that don’t.

Take for example Alpaslan Ozturk. Born in Belgium to Turkish parents, he moved to Birmingham City from Germenial Beerschot on a youth contract - a deal that in itself provided few guarantees, as he explains; “I came to England without knowing where I was staying, if I was going to get paid or not, or if I was going to sign a contract”

Having left his family and friends behind, he was now forced to ingratiate himself in to a new country, city and culture, despite being only a teenager. He remembers it vividly; “I had just turned 16 when I first came to England. It was the 30th of August 2009, I had come alone but it did not matter for the first few weeks because you’re still in a bit of a shock that you’re playing in England.” He said.

Many foreign players struggle linguistically in England, and even though Alpaslan spoke English, he still had problems. Now fluent, he reflects on it with a degree of humour, explaining- “I could speak English before I came to England but I had a lot of trouble with the Brummie accent (laughs). Eventually I got used to that as well, I even think I’ve got one now.”

Once the initial excitement of a move to the Premier League had dissipated, homesickness began to set in for the youngster. “After the first couple of weeks it got hard without my family with me, but in my second year I got used to it,” he said.

Having represented both Turkey and Belgium at youth level, his future seemed bright, but problems soon began to surface between his new and former club. “When I got to England we were going to sign a scholarship deal,” he said.

The uncertainty didn’t end there, with Ozturk in a state of limbo, he explains; “Birmingham had to pay Beerschot, but for one reason or another they didn’t, and they put me on extended schoolboy forms. The issue never got solved and a few days ago the club told me that they are not gonna offer me a deal because of problems with Beerschot”

In what could be deemed slightly naive, he took to his (now deleted) Twitter page to explain just why he felt he had not been retained, tweeting; “Leaving Birmingham City Football Club, the club can’t afford to pay my compensation, thanks for the great memories Blues Fans and Club.”

With Birmingham’s reported financial troubles, his claims did not seem without foundation. Ozturk seemed a prospect, after all he was given a squad number last season and promoted to the first team for the club's FA Cup tie against Bolton. The game is something he looks back fondly on, telling me; “I cant explain that feeling it was a mixture of everything. A bit of fear, happiness, craziness, everything was in it. When I saw ‘33 Ozturk’ on the back of the shirt I was the happiest man on earth. I buzz off seeing the shirt even today.”

When asked about the player's situation, a Birmingham spokesman said; “It came to decision time, and unfortunately for Alpa the club decided not to retain his services. The club wish him all the best in the future.”

It’s difficult to decipher just where the truth lies. Don Henley once sang "There’s three sides to every story, yours, mine and the cold hard truth," - and that could arguably explain the situation. Alpaslan is now heading towards free agency, like so many unfortunate youngsters before him. Yet his outlook is still positive.

“I have no regrets” he said. It’s a statement he reiterates regarding his entire time with Birmingham, adding; “I’ve never ever regretted anything in my life, and certainly not coming and playing for the Blues [Birmingham]. As for Twitter, I just wanted to thank the fans for their support throughout my two seasons at the club. Now I have to find a new club, I’d have loved to come back and play for Birmingham, but if it’s not meant to be then it’s not meant to be.”

Now 18, Alpaslan still has an entire career ahead of him, with his dream still to play in England’s top league, he hasn’t given up just yet; “I will keep trying, I am just thankful to Birmingham for my time there. Now I will sit down with my agent and my family and decide what’s next."