Charlie Machell is reflecting on his first season of senior football. Although his side Thisted still have three games remaining this season, they have achieved their goal of survival already having been promoted last year and there is a lot for the Newcastle-born midfielder to look back on.
“The first half of the season was amazing as we were second in the league after twenty games and I personally had got some good playing time in those games,” says the 23-year-old.
Thisted were the surprise packages during the first half the season, losing just four of their first nineteen games as they competed in the Danish second tier for the first time in seven years. However since the winter break, it has been a different story. Remarkably, Thisted are yet to win a game since returning to action in March.
Despite this, the English midfielder has still taken some positives from the disappointing run of games. “The second half of the season hasn’t been as good as we have slipped down the league but we can still be proud of our achievements as we have avoided relegation for definite,” he says.
“We are looking to finish as high as possible in the last three games. I have also had a few more starts this half of the season and become a much better player for it.”
Machell has so far made the vast majority of his appearances off the bench, fourteen of his sixteen league appearances but the experience he has gained on the pitch in his first season of senior football will no doubt prove to be invaluable.
At least he can concentrate purely on football now, which was not always the case when he was studying in the US.
“Combining studying and playing football was fairly easy once I got used to it,” he recalls.
“However the demands were sometimes difficult in certain periods.
“For instance, on a number of occasions I had long papers due or final exams whilst having an away match 6 hours away. After a certain amount of time you learn how to manage your time the best.
“A lot of professors were lenient towards student athletes as they knew the demands – we had to focus both on gaining a degree whilst also fighting to win a championship.”
The Geordie spent four years splitting his time between his double life, spending three years at Wingate University in North Carolina where he picked up numerous awards for his performances on the field and then finishing his degree in Sports Studies at East Tennessee State University.
After completing his university degree, Machell had a decision to make. Was he to try find employment or did he attempt to make football his profession? He chose the latter.
“I had a few trials with US clubs and also went to a combine in New York that had a number of Danish agents and coaches in attendance. I went to the combine purely because I had wanted to potentially play in Scandinavia but never thought it would be Denmark.”
He made an impression on the onlooking scouts and was soon approached with an interesting offer and one he took full advantage of.
“After playing in the combine I was approached by an agent and also the head coach of Thisted who invited me on a pre-season trial with the club.
“After arriving I spent two weeks on trial here playing in three pre-season games. After the third game against a Superliga (Danish first tier) team the manager decided to offer me a contract.”
It was now up to Machell to settle in a whole new environment as he get used to the northern Danish town he would now call home.
“Life in Denmark is definitely different to anything I have experienced before and a huge change from the US,” he says.
“I really enjoy it here even though the sun doesn’t shine too much! The culture is a good one as it promotes a very healthy lifestyle and also looks after the people very well.”
Of course, the Englishman was no stranger to living away on his own, having spent four years away in the States and admits that this previous experience made the transition a lot easier – alongside his new teammates excellent language skills.
“The language is the hardest bit for myself as some words that look like other words sound completely different. This has caused a few laughs with some of my teammates!
“I have started to pick up words and sentences after nearly a year so I can, at least, have a small conversation with people in Danish, however I’m very lucky that everyone over here speak very good English.”
Now football that football was his full-time profession, Machell could focus solely on his game on the pitch and he already had significant football pedigree from his time in the UK. A former striker who has now developed into a versatile player who offers an aerial threat and good passing ability, he had featured for Newcastle United’s academy and played alongside Watford’s Will Hughes as an England youth international but that does not mean he has taken anything for granted during his time in Denmark.
“The standard is so much better than people may think,” he says. “In the first two tiers of the league system over here, the players are no joke.”
Although the 23-year-old’s career is only in its opening chapter, his path to professional football was not a short one so it begs the question as to whether he would recommend his path to other young footballer back home.
“I would one hundred per cent recommend playing abroad,” he says resoundingly before going on to offer some more deeper thoughts on the matter.
“As a youth player in an academy system, I feel like players have the dream of playing in the Premier League and look at players who have taken their chance but what they don’t know is that there is a very small chance of that happening.
“Playing abroad gives you real first team football where you learn to win and lose as a team and what it really means to play football. Players don’t realise that playing abroad can show that you have a desire to be different and you want play at a high level and become a mature player at a quicker rate.”
It’s a solid piece of advice which can be ill-afforded to be ignored. Machell’s willingness to move abroad and to take opportunities which have arisen with both hands have done him no harm so far.
And it seems the Newcaslte lad has no plans to draw up a future path for himself any time soon, preferring to stick to the route which has served him so well so far.
“As of right now I am not sure where I would like my career to take me,” he states, as if remembering back to when he had no idea where the combine in New York would take him.
“I like playing abroad as you get to play on the big stage a lot more and if you can get into a first tier somewhere then there is a chance of Europa League or Champions League football, which would be amazing.”
From reading the versatile midfielder’s answers I can tell he is determined to make the most of his career in football and I have been impressed by how much of a quick learner he is. It should therefore come as no surprise what his final words are.
“I would like to play as much as I can at the highest level possible, wherever that may be. Being away from home has helped me realise that football can let you travel the world.”