Under-17 World Cup winner Curtis Anderson has taken the bold decision to swap Manchester City for life in the United States as he looks to kick on like former England team-mates Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
An increasing number of English talents are moving away from home comforts in search of first-team football, yet few young professionals are heading across the Atlantic to take that step.
But Anderson is not your typical 18-year-old.
After all, there are not many goalkeepers that have the self-belief to step up to take a penalty in a major tournament after saving one in the same shootout.
“Well, yeah, it’s ballsy isn’t it!” the Barrow-born shot-stopper said with a laugh when reflecting on that Under-17 World Cup last-16 clash with Japan 18 months ago.
That was a brave move from Anderson – the first of many.
England’s goalkeeper for all but one match in India has moved to the Charlotte Independence of the USL Championship, the second tier of football in America.
Anderson signed a one-year deal with the option of another in North Carolina and is keen not to “waste any time”, having pushed City to tell him that they were letting him go this summer – not that he intended to stay anyway.
“You’ve just got to have a bit of self-belief and have a bit of balls about you to make the move like I have,” Anderson – a player Blackburn were understood to be tracking – told Press Association Sport.
“I could have stayed in England. I could have gone safe and stayed out the end of my contract, collected all my money from City and then took the safe option of reviewing it at the end of the season, start of next season.
“But, like I said, I have showed the belief to move here – which is obviously the other side of the world! – just because I believe that I am good enough to do it and I’ll be able to do well here, which will open up more options for me in the future.”
It is the kind of confidence and open-mindedness that England manager Gareth Southgate recently pinpointed as being part of the psyche of young players like recent full debutants Sancho and Hudson-Odoi.
“The England set-up now is crazy,” Anderson, who was quick to send his fellow Under-17s World Cup winners congratulatory messages, said.
“The first-team manager, Gareth Southgate, is not afraid to push people up.
“Everyone always says ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ – and he has clearly proven that he believes that himself, to put trust in the young players.”
Anderson was last with the England youth set-up in November and spoke to the likes of England junior goalkeeping coach Eric Steele and Tim Dittmer, the Football Association’s head of goalkeeping, before making last month’s move.
“As a goalkeeper, your route is obviously very different,” Anderson said. “Jadon got his opportunity to go to the Bundesliga very young at like 17, 18.
“It’s a bit different as an outfield player because he can go there and come off the bench for 20 minutes and really do well, and then next week he’s in the team.
“Whereas as a goalkeeper, you’re never getting that opportunity.
“With me moving to America, it’s the same kind of thing: if I can make a name for myself, it’s just another one of the young lads who can (prove themselves).
“It just shows that you don’t have to be the standard route. With all these lads going on loan, even Emile Smith Rowe to Germany.
“More and more people are realising that England is not just the only place for football because you can make a name for yourself other places.
“It doesn’t have to be there because, if you’re doing well, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world nowadays. Everyone is going to know about it.”
Anderson’s ambition is to play for the England senior team one day and be back in the Premier League within five years.
Right now, though, there is a steely determination to make the most of his time with Charlotte, who he is determined to help win the title while making an individual impact after ending his long association with City.
“I can’t thank City enough,” Anderson said of the club he joined aged 11. “I am not going to lie, I do miss it.
“I am looking back and seeing all the lads, and the banter in the changing room on Snapchat and that.
Had the most amazing 7 years @mancity learning from some of the best coaches in football and having the opportunity to train with some off the best players! Want to say a big thank you to everyone at the club for developing me into the person & player I am today! #MCFCpic.twitter.com/wPfJdgcrHm— Curtis Anderson (@CurtAndo_) March 19, 2019
“But I’m here to do a job and my route is different to their route, so I am starting my route and I am doing it differently and I am going to stick to that.
“Obviously I miss home, miss my mum and dad and everything, but I am just trying to stay as driven and focused as I can because this is the way I am going to do it.”
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