Martin Hardy: Cost of a two-week trial: £1,000. Saving the dream: Priceless

Life Beyond the Premier League

The drive to Liverpool from Bournemouth took six hours. The price for everything, including a two-week stay in a hotel next to Prenton Park, was about £1,000, according to Abdulai Bell-Baggie. He was 20 years old and didn't have a regular income, but what price do you put on your dream?

His was just about over, the one about being a footballer, anyway. Bell-Baggie had been capped at England Under-16 and Under-17 level, but his more recent story had involved being rejected by Reading, spending time out of the game and bouncing around non-league football. He had spells at Yeovil, Hayes and Yeading and Salisbury ("it was close to where I lived so the travel wasn't as expensive").

They all ended the same, with the "we don't think you're good enough to make it" conversation, which would then have to be relayed to his girlfriend Natalie, her parents (where he was living), and her brother. All that would have been bad enough, but Natalie's brother is Adam Lallana, the Southampton midfielder.

"That didn't make it any easier for the family," says Bell-Baggie. "He was doing so well and I wasn't even playing. I kept getting told I wasn't good enough. I got a job in the summer to keep me ticking over with money. I was doing telesales. It reminded me how much I wanted to be a footballer.

"I was training twice a day as well to make sure I was fit. I would finish work and do another run. You have to be ready. You have to grab it with both hands.

"Some things I wish I had done better as a kid. I wish had been more professional but as a kid you do things. You have to learn by your mistakes. I've matured as person.

"I was born in Sierra Leone and I moved to England in 1999, when I was seven. I came over with my family but they went back six years later and I stayed with foster parents. I always wanted to be a footballer but the game is about opinions."

One person's opinion had not wavered. Ronnie Moore had taken Bell-Baggie to Rotherham United on loan when he was there. He signed for a month and stayed for half a season. His last appearance was against Dagenham & Redbridge at Wembley in the League Two play-off final in 2010. Rotherham lost. Bell-Baggie was once more clubless. Then began his drift, but Moore, who returned to his old club Tranmere to take charge in March, had kept note.

The invitation for a two-week trial fell Bell-Baggie's way.

"I was psyching myself up on the drive," he said. "I knew how important it was. It was a massive risk. It was a six-hour drive. I was on my own. There was no support. What if I didn't make it? What then? The question kept going around my head. I was going to a league club on trial, it could be the start of everything. On the other hand, if it doesn't work out, it is money for nothing.

"I had to think positive. You have to give your best in life. You can't think about the bad things. I couldn't think like that. I thought it might be my last chance and Ronnie Moore gave me that chance. I will forever be grateful for that. It was a bit of a gamble. If things don't work out for you at Salisbury City, wouldn't a Football League club ask why? I think Ronnie Moore is the only manager who believed in me."

Training was twice a day. He knew no one in the dressing room. Bit by bit, however, he got to know the players and impressed the coaching staff. Then a call into Moore's office. "It was the most nervous I've ever been," he said "It was always my dream to play football. It was all I wanted to do. I've loved football all my life. He said I had a 12-month contract. I was shaking when I came out of his office. I got into the toilet and I started screaming, for about 10 seconds, then I was tearful, very tearful. I rang Natalie and she started crying as well."

Tomorrow, Tranmere travel to Braintree Town in the FA Cup first round. Braintree are in the Conference Premier , the fifth tier of English football and one level above Salisbury City, who told Bell-Baggie he wasn't good enough. There is a doubt about his participation through injury but he will be there, as a League One regular with Tranmere – he has played 11 times this season – his faith in dreams restored.

News
people
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities