Will Annan is one of the lucky few. Growing up in the suburbs of Hull, the 21-year-old progressed through the ranks at his home town club before making his Hull City first-team debut in the Carabao Cup game at Doncaster Rovers last season.
With City struggling for numbers, Leonid Slutsky put his faith in the under-23 side, handing senior debuts to six of the starting XI at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The young Tigers fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a much more experienced League One outfit, but the scoreline would not dampen the occasion for Annan, who had just realised a lifetime goal.
Unfortunately, despite being a regular in Jon Beale’s under-23 side, the second round cup tie proved to be the midfielder’s first and last involvement in the first team with Hull and this summer his lengthy association with the club came to an end.
His name was included as one of the 13 players released from the academy following the conclusion of the 2017/18 season, allowing the latest crop of scholars to come through and attempt to manoeuvre themselves into the spotlight.
Fortunately, though, Annan had been preparing himself for that day.
“I had the conversation with Jon Beale in January or February time, but I knew it was coming,” Annan told the Mail. “I was a third year pro’ so at the start of last season I thought if I wasn’t in the first team I was pretty sure I’d be going.
“I’m 21 so I need to be playing in a first team somewhere and getting games under my belt and that was never going to happen at Hull because I was stuck in the under-23s.
“Looking back I probably wish it had come earlier so that I would have had more opportunity at a younger age to go and play games. The younger you’re getting that experience, the more chance you’ve got of playing at a higher level.
“Obviously it’s not nice to not be involved at Hull anymore but I had prepared myself and that is what I wanted to do anyway. If they had offered me a contract I would have probably said that I’d rather go off and do my own thing.”
Annan was one of hundreds of young footballers released by clubs in the Football League this summer after falling short of what was required to make the cut, a decision the midfielder had no qualms with.
However, he is a strong believer English clubs such as City could be doing more to give their young players every chance to succeed in the game by doing all they can to provide first-team football.
The Beverley-born youngster did leave City, joining Tadcaster Albion on a short-term loan alongside Ellis Barkworth, a month-and-a-half before their release.
The Tigers did make a habit of sending players out on loan to non-league clubs last season, with a number of players leaving, but Jonathan Edwards was the only member of the under-23s away for more than two months.
The problem isn’t just City’s, though, as young talent struggles for opportunities nationwide and Annan believes the problem lies in Football League clubs’ reluctance to let players leave on loan.
“I’m not being bitter or anything like that, but looking out for the boys coming through, I don’t want people to be in my shoes in three years’ time, the ones turning pro now,” he added.
“Brandon Fleming, he went on loan to Gainsborough in the Conference North at 17/18 and he will only benefit from that. People now know he’s been at that level and can handle it. So another team at that level might come in for him or they might get a step up the pyramid.
“The club needs to look and think ‘we need to try and get the boys out to non-league as soon as possible’. A lot of the lads will end up not even playing for the under-23s and it’s a waste of their time and the clubs’ time.
“It’s hard because there’s always potential involved and they think you might be good enough at some point but I think you can look at players at the age of 18/19 and you can tell if they’ll be around it or not.
“It’s about helping them get a career as much as it is about the club. There’s a fine line between what’s right and what’s wrong but you don’t want players to come out of it and not be in the best position they can be.”
Since leaving the Tigers, Annan has joined Northern Premier League outfit Scarborough Athletic in what represents his first permanent steps into the men’s game and away from his boyhood club.
The Seadogs may ply their trade in the seventh tier, but Annan has been more than willing to drop down the pyramid in order to get an opportunity to prove himself in an attempt to work his way back up.
“I knew I was going to drop into non-league, I knew that from the end of last season. Scarborough used to be in the Football League and they are a big town. I spoke to the manager, Steve Kittrick, and he’s very ambitious.
“He sold it to me that they were getting 1,800 fans every game at the end of last season and he wants 2,000 this season. It’s a massive fanbase, they’ve got a new stadium as well so I’m quite excited.
“I’m currently sorting out my CV to try and get a little job on the side but the main aim is to get back in full-time football.”