THERE is no better start to a football career than playing as a youngster in local leagues according to one former professional from Yeovil.
Tony Pounder was spotted as a teenager playing for Westland Sports in Yeovil in the 1980s, given his break by Weymouth before establishing himself in the second tier of English football with Bristol Rovers.
More than 100 appearances later, Mr Pounder – now 45 – switched to Football League rivals Hereford United, eventually ending his career close to where it started, with Yeovil Town.
Mr Pounder, who played for the Glovers' reserves before heading to Westland, remembers his grassroots days fondly and said returning to live in Yeovil was always part of the long-term plan.
"Local football beds you in well and the likes of Sherborne Town and Westland Sports are in good leagues," said the once tricky winger.
"Enough players come from those leagues and if you look at the likes of (Leicester City keeper) Chris Weale and (former Glover) Andy Lindegaard, they both played local football before becoming professionals.
"It is definitely a good background. Yeovil Town have got a Centre of Excellence which is a good idea, but I do not think anything beats local football when you are young and able to play against men.
"I had longer years at Bristol Rovers than anywhere else, to be honest. I went on to Weymouth, then Rovers after they had gone into the old Second Division, which is now the Championship.
"I went to Hereford before heading back here, which was always going to be part of the plan. We lived up in Bath and Bristol as it was never too far away from Yeovil and I was always coming back to see my mates."
Mr Pounder followed in the footsteps of his father – also called Tony – by playing for the Glovers and recalled boyhood experiences of travelling to reserve team matches with his dad. The AgustaWestland employee also credits Tony snr for providing him with the best advice in his career, a message he believes still rings true today.
Mr Pounder said: "My Dad grounded me very well and I will always remember his advice. When you are at school every kid wants to be a footballer but football is a very hard game to get in to.
"Dad wanted me to get a back and a trade first because the thing with football is that you can be out on your backside without any other training aged 19.
"Even when you enter football now, people are going to college or getting a trade as well because at the end of the day it is only the big Premier League stars that are made for life.
"Ninety per cent of footballers have to work after they end their playing careers, even if it is coaching. Young players need to work hard and get their heads down. If they do that they could have a good career."
Mr Pounder added that preparation behind the scenes and the pace of the game were the main differences between today's professional game and the one he left 11 years ago.
"I remember my dad comparing his days to my days and now I am trying to compare those to today," he said. "It is all a lot more technical now, with more attention to aspects such as your diet.
"When I played there were no warm downs or things like the ice bath. There seem to be a lot more backroom staff now. When I was at Rovers under Gerry Francis he had Des Belper as his assistant and they did the lot, but now you have got fitness coaches, defensive coaches, striker coaches – everything.
"The pace of the game has also got a lot quicker."