How the dream has faded for England's top eight-year-old

Big clubs vied to sign John Megicks when he was six. At eight, he was on TV. He's in the Ryman Premier now. Sam Wallace reports

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The Independent Online

When John Megicks was eight years old, Alan Hansen met him from school with a film crew that was making a documentary about the best schoolboy footballers in the country. A child prodigy, who trained at Spurs' academy, Megicks was interviewed in his parents' front room in Enfield about his ambitions by the BBC's famous pundit.

The documentary, Football's Dream Factory, went out in April 2001 with Hansen as its frontman and a stellar range of interviewees including a 19-year-old Joe Cole, soon-to-be European footballer of the year Michael Owen, and Sol Campbell. Harry Redknapp, then West Ham manager, told Hansen: "You've got to grab 'em young". The agent Jon Smith correctly predicted that "the next battleground will be for the signature of the kid".

Well, it already was: in 1999 The Sun devoted two pages of its sports pages to the battle between West Ham and Spurs for Megicks' signature with the headline "Meet West Ham's latest target – he's John Megicks, age 6".

At the centre of it was the angel-faced Megicks. Ten years on, we tracked him down to see how his football dream has worked out. Now 19, he has stubble and a steady girlfriend but he never got a professional contract with Spurs. In fact there has been no professional contract at any club and Megicks can joke that his peak as a footballer may have come when he was eight years old.

A polite and pleasant young man, still living with his mum, Carol, who still clearly adores him, he has a healthy sense of perspective. He still plays, for Wingate and Finchley in the Ryman Premier League.

Even before that film, Megicks had been on daytime TV shows. "It felt like he was famous," Carol says. "Too much, too young. He had all this publicity. He had all these promises. Everyone said he was better than Michael Owen. He was playing against Jack Wilshere. He outshone them all, but that's life isn't it?"

But, he says, "it all got so much ... a Swedish TV crew came to film me. They gave me a Sweden kit. It felt unreal. I was there at eight and seeing myself on telly. People were saying I was worth £100,000 at the age of eight ... I was not big-headed but it was nice. People paying attention and saying how good I was. Obviously, I peaked way too early."

For six years after that documentary, he continued to flourish. But suddenly, at the age of 14, Spurs let him go. "I was devastated ... My confidence completely went. It was so out the blue ... I didn't ever want to play football again," he recalls.

His dad, also John, got him a trial at West Ham. "I didn't enjoy it," Megicks says. "There were kids there who I had played against before. I bottled it, if anything. I just didn't fancy it. I was so down."

At 16, he decided against the offer of a scholar's contract at Northampton where he had been for two years. He spent 2009-10 with Barnet, and at 17 captained their youth team, but there was no professional deal.

"I went away devastated and that was really when I thought 'I have got to look at my options now, I have to get into the real world and look for a living'." And so it is that, via Ware Town and Cambridge City, he plays at Wingate now – but he also has a day-job coaching in primary schools.

"Wingate have a few fans so it is nice to play in front of people – even though it is not 40,000, which would have been my dream," he says.