Adnan Ahmed is one of very few Asians to have played at a professional level. Now he has set-up an academy alongside Nathan Ellington to look at how he can help encourage more young footballers to follow in his footsteps and reach their full potential.

Adnan has played for Huddersfield Town, Tranmere Rovers and is the only British Asian player to have turned out for Hungarian champions Ferencvárosi TC.

He also played for Pakistan but the Burnley born footballer has never lost sight of where it began.

The 34-year old said, “I have been in football virtually all my life so towards the end of my career it was always on my mind to help inspire the next generation in terms of passing on knowledge and experience of what it takes to make it.

“I realised from doing many school visits and speaking to parents especially from the South Asian background that majority didn’t in reality realise what was required to give your child a chance to make it.

“For instance how often one should be training, what type of training, where they should be playing to getting spotted by scouts?

He put the idea to his close friend and ex-premier league player Nathan Ellington and they both decided to set-up ‘Pre Pro Academy’.

Adnan said, “The Academy has been set-up to mirror professional club academies in terms of syllabus and coaching standards so this will help prepare players from grass roots in particular to bridge the gap to the standards required at professional clubs.

“Also we offer something different with clinics from ex-professionals which focus on specific skill set such as finishing, defending and ball mastery.

“We felt having the opportunity to be coached from ex professionals is something that is priceless for any player especially to learn from their experiences.

“We have a good network of ex pro’s so players such as Frank Sinclair, Pascal Chimbonda, Emmerson Boyce will be part of the clinics.”

Adnan said was he keen to look at how smaller less established clubs did not miss out and agreed more needed to be done by some clubs to reach out to minority communities.

“Most of the football clubs have a scouting strategy which mainly focuses on mainstream football leagues within the locality so it is important that the minority backgrounds are playing in these leagues to have a chance of being spotted.

“This is part of what we provide, to educate parents on what we feel could be better options from our experiences.

“We will also be putting players forward to clubs and will have scouts visit us to look at our players which we have had success in during the past year.”

Have new ‘Asian’ football clubs had a positive effect?

His own journey through professional football has seen him become a role model for many other young players to follow.

He had this advice for parents, “There are a lot of factors and it’s a long road to become a professional. Facts are 0.01% make it which means you have to be one of the best in the teams you play for consistently until you get a 1st team opportunity.

“Parents have to understand the amount of additional work and sacrifice required to give their child a chance to make it.

“Also, it is very important for parents to educate themselves on how the system works in terms of which leagues have the most scouts present and what the standard of academy players is from this knowledge it will help them understand where their child currently stands and areas required to improve.”

A number of Asian football clubs have raised their standards and cater for hundreds of young kids on a weekly basis. Adnan said he welcomed this but he was wary about how far this would go.

“Is this going to help their development? Yes and No.

“Yes, because it is a platform that is more professionally run these days compared to years before so level of coaching is better for them to improve.

“No because part of being a Footballer is learning how to adapt with other communities and developing personalities to deal with this side.

“For me my best learning years were playing in a mainstream team at the age of 11 years old and learning how to handle myself from a young age in an environment that if you like is not the norm.

“Reality is all academies are open to all so been confined to one demographic such as an Asian team can then make it a more difficult transition to an academy trial as the environment is completely different to what the child is used to.”

In 2018 we are yet to see the breakthrough of Asian talent we had envisaged in the late nineties.

“I was very fortunate to have gone all the way from starting at u11’s to 1st team football and the experiences that I have had are priceless to say the least.

“It is these experiences I want to pass on to the next generation to help guide them on various scenarios that I once went through and give them the motivation that you too can do this.

“It was more difficult when I did it as there was less awareness and inclusion initiatives than compared to today so players have to believe they can do it and fulfil their dreams.

“I had a strong inner will power so majority of the time I motivated myself to give my best in whatever I was doing.

“From a young age I did regular extra sessions individually by myself with the guidance of my elder brother Majid Ahmed.

“Majid was instrumental to me starting playing football so he played a massive role in my development from the age of 11-16.

“One thing I have realised about the players who I have played with and against who ended up making it, is that they all share a common trait willingness to put the hard work in and persistence when the going gets tough.

“Talent only gets you so far but without hard work and persistence you literally have no chance in today’s football.”

Pressure on being an Asian professional footballer He said from the age of under 11s onwards he was the only Asian playing in his team and at times the whole league.

“This is a test in itself to be able to handle the environment individually and still produce a good standard of football during games.

“In life you have to just keep going taking a week at a time and working hard as you can along the way until one day if fortunate then you fulfil your dream of becoming a Pro.

“I never used to feel pressure especially from the ages 11-18 but of course I had normal nerves before games.

“I think when you get older you end up putting pressure on yourself to perform which if not controlled well can lead to being too tense during games so therefore restrict performance levels.”

Optimistic about the future He remained optimistic and said it was a matter of time until we see a football star born from a South Asian background. It was similar question we asked him years ago on these very pages.

He said, “All too often we have had some talented boys within academies that never fulfilled their early promise, I think this again is due to lack of mentoring and being guided correctly during the crucial years.

“Hopefully this will change and mentoring from players who have been there and done it will help guide the next generation to make that final step and get through to the highest stage.”

To find out more about Pre Pro Academy you can e-mail or call Gary Moseley on 07974 080562. You can also view more at