SAM Cosgrove wasn’t joking when he admitted “I’m not one that’s had it all my own way” when it comes to his football career.
Not that you would have known it this week.
The Aberdeen striker is sitting in a rather posh hotel ten miles or so outside of Dubai having just been presented with the Scottish Premiership player of the month award, the result of hard work, goals and a hell of a lot of perseverance.
This is a player who has been been bullied in non-league football, spent too long sitting on the bench and even at the start of this season struggled to make an impact.
And, remember, he was sent off minutes into his Aberdeen debut for a shocking tackle on Scott Brown.
Is it any wonder Cosgrove is learning accountancy, just in case this football lark doesn’t work out for him.
The big guy is easy to warm to. It’s true, nothing has come easy. There have been, literally, more than a few bumps along the way.
However, things are working out for him and while the Ballon D’or the Red Army sing he should win might be beyond him, Cosgrove should be proud at how far he has come.
He said: “I’m one that’s not had it all their own way. I came through at Everton when I was younger, then at Wigan in the youth team on a scholarship. Towards the end at Wigan I spent quite a bit out of time on loan in the non-leagues, which was quite an eye-opener. Not a lot of football takes place and it was a hard realisation for me.
“I went to Carlisle and didn’t play a massive amount. But I managed to get into the team just before the end of my time there and I’m grateful for the manager and the club for taking a gamble on me.
“But there were times when I was thinking ‘is this something I really want to be doing?’. I would always play football at some level so I thought I’d stick in and do the best I could. I spent a few months at Barrow, Chorley and North Ferriby. It was basically big defenders doing what I do to people!
“You need a certain amount of resilience and self-belief within football. I’ve shown I’ve got that coming through some sticky times and it almost makes me realise it’ll never happen again to me. Thankfully at the moment it’s keeping me in a good place and I don’t intend to stop.
“No-one can do anything to you on a football – there’s only a certain amount of intimidation you can do. People will try and get inside your head but it’s how you deal with that.”
It was during his time at Everton when he was taken under the wing of a then young coach who saw something in the big, strong physical centre-forward who wasn’t afraid to put his head in where it hurts.
Take a wild guess who that was.
Cosgrove said: “Duncan Ferguson just started his coaching at Everton when I was there. He was always fond of me, being a big guy myself. At the time there was all these small kids and playmakers coming through, so he took a shine to me and maybe saw a bit of himself in me.
“H was good with me the few weeks I worked with him.”
Cosgrove knows how fickle football is. That’s why he’s working away on a course which would be something to fall back on if the whole Ballon D’or thing didn’t work out.
Accountancy might not be as exciting as the beautiful game but but’s a steady job. Football for so many is certainly not that.
Cosgrove said: “I did my A-Levels at Wigan, alongside my football, and I’ve kept my studies going. I’m doing an accountancy course and I’ve always felt education is important, so I’ve topped that up. It’s the AAT course – it’s self-taught and not quite a degree, but by the end I’ll be qualified.
“I’d always have that as a potential fall-back. A career can be over within the click of a finger – a bad tackle or fall and you can be out of a job. I enjoy it at times as we’re normally finished training by 2pm, so it keeps my mind active.
“Sometimes you can only get an hour done but it’s pretty easy to balance.”
For the moment, the football is going well. The Aberdeen fans have taken to him and he’s responded by scoring goals and leading the front line for his team with intelligence.
He admits: “I enjoy the song (Sammy Cosgrove, Ballon D’Or) – I’ve heard it a few times and I think they’ve got the music on the Tannoy now, so everyone seems to be enjoying it.”