Sam Gleadle’s ambition is clear. He is determined to break into the Reno 1868 squad and make his first season in professional football a success.
“My mind right now is one hundred percent focused on breaking into this team. I have been rostered once and I can tell, and from speaking to the coaching staff, that I am close to making my debut and that excites me greatly.”
The 22-year-old from Chichester fulfilled his dream of becoming a professional footballer earlier this year when he agreed a deal to sign for USL side Reno 1868. The University of New Mexico graduate was all too happy to sign on the dotted line.
“I was super excited when I received my first contract here in Reno, and felt very proud and motivated.
“I was initially offered to come to Reno for pre-season, not guaranteed a contract, so when the offer finally came, it felt great.
“I have always wanted to play professionally anywhere so it was an incredible moment for my family and I.”
Having moved to the States as a nine-year-old full of footballing potential because of his father’s job, Gleadle developed his game in his new home, becoming one of the brightest prospects in high school as he fired 56 goals in just two seasons.
He then went on to study at the University of New Mexico for four years where he was a star player for the college’s soccer team, playing 70 games and picking up 12 assists in his four year stint with the Lobos. It’s fait to say that Gleadle made the most of his time at college.
“The college game in the US is a very difficult season due to the amount of games that you play in a short period of time,” he says. “I believe that college is not for everybody but it is a great way to make your way to the professional level while developing other skills in the community and business world.
“I am very happy that I am a professional soccer player but I am also proud to say I also have two college degrees.”
Clearly a youngster with his mind very well switched on, he took his game to a whole new level during his time with the Lobos, willing to adapt to his coach’s instructions and become a valued team player.
“I had never played out on the wing before I arrived at New Mexico so it was new to me but now I feel comfortable playing there and through the middle.
“Getting assists feels just as good as a goal so I am very happy to provide whatever I can to my team.”
Having impressed many during his college days and whilst playing for PDL side Albuquerque Sol, Gleadle was offered a trial at Reno and he took the opportunity with both hands as he was offered a one-year deal. He is now a full time professional footballer and although there was a noticeable step-up, he has adapted with ease.
“The level of play is definitely a step up and the mentality of the players and staff is also.
“There are different challenges in the different stages of the game but the play is definitely a step up.
“The college I was at treated us like pros so I did not have to change my routine up too much which made transitioning was easier.”
With the on field adjustment made, there was also the small matter of Reno being over 1,000 miles away from his previous base in Albuquerque so how did he adapt to living so far from the place he had called home for four years? Amazingly well, it seems.
“I love Reno!” he exclaims. “My teammates and staff members have been awesome in bringing us in and I feel very at home here and like the area we live in.
“Although it is far away from Albuquerque, I find a lot of similarities between the two cities and that has made it easy as well.
“My parents live in Gilbert, Arizona, so it is a short flight for them to come visit still, so that is nice.
“Reno is very diverse and there are always new places to check out and explore.”
It seems like everything is settled for Gleadle as he awaits his professional debut. The aforementioned game he was ‘rostered’ for was when he was on the bench during Reno’s 2-0 win over OKC Energy at the end of April. Although he is yet to make his debut, the Chichester-born winger seems more equipped than most to pass on advice from his colleges days to potential new students.
“I would recommend this [college soccer route] to young English players that are willing to work towards their dreams still while being away from home.
“If players get cut from a team in England, I would say to them, the United States is much bigger than you think and there are tons of teams here. Go to college, get an education and meet tons of awesome people and still have the opportunity to play professionally here.
“The number of scholarship opportunities is crazy and playing football while getting your education paid for is quite incredible.”
It’s a sound piece of advice from a young man with a lot of potential and his story certainly paints a picture of an example to follow. You only have to look at the likes of Jack Harrison and Dom Dwyer to see how successful the college soccer route can be for young English prospects.
I have learned a lot in my time getting to know Sam and his time in America seems like a dream come true but would the former Southampton youth academy player want to come home one day?
“Of course I would love to move back to the UK and play,” he says. “That has always been my dream but I like setting small goals that I can make and take it from there so we will see…”