For attacking midfielder Dayle Grubb, he admits that he fell out of love with football during his time in the Academy set up but after rediscovering his mojo at home-town club Weston-super-Mare, he earnt a move to Forest Green Rovers a different way. Read as he talks about his decision to leave Bristol City, how FGR were always on his radar and the support of an unusual pet.
Forest Green Rovers’ Dayle Grubb admits he did things ‘another way’ to get into professional football, which makes it apt that his break into the pro game came at a club that prides itself on that moto.
Now 27, it is hard to think as you watch him cut in off the left and onto his right foot, looking to curl it into the back of the net in trademark fashion, it took until last winter for a Football League club to take a punt on him.
It was whilst watching his brother, who is four years older than him, playing for Bristol City Academy that his talents were first spotted.
Killing some time, he would take free-kicks against his dad in a goal set up to the side of the pitch.
A member of the Bristol Academy staff saw him and offered him a trial at the club. A classic case of the right place at the right time.
However, despite seeing his older brother carve a path that saw him earn a professional contract at Ashton Gate and earn caps at Under 19 and Under 21 level, it wasn’t long before he was coming to the difficult conclusion that academy football might not be for him.
“My brother was always someone I aspired to and wanted to achieve the same amount,” he said. “I wanted to make it and had the perfect role model in him.
“I enjoyed it at Bristol at first. It’s a big commitment at that age, training three times a week and you’d always have your friends out doing different things and you’re having to go straight from school up to training.
I probably didn’t think I was capable of playing professional football. That wasn’t really on my mind, I just wanted to go back and enjoy playing socially.
“I was quite a small lad and one of those stories where I fell out of love with it and I wasn’t enjoying it.
“I sat down with my family and decided I wasn’t going to pursue it anymore.
“At that age, you don’t look too far ahead do you. You make impulsive decisions.
“On one hand I probably didn’t think I was capable of playing professional football, there were a lot of players in my age group who were stronger and doing a lot better than I was. That wasn’t really on my mind, I just wanted to go back and enjoy playing socially. I didn’t really think about football as a career path at the time.”
It was back home at Weston-super-Mare that he reignited that spark that he had missed since having kick abouts with his mates.
But while Weston could pay him, there was a sharp realisation that he had to start thinking about the bigger picture.
It was at Weston that he started working for their charity arm, enjoying the community feel of the club, going into schools and delivering sports sessions.
Forest Green Rovers was where I could envisage playing my football and taking my step into the professional game.
Whilst at one school he was offered the chance to go full-time with them and he jumped at the chance to get back into the classroom.
Grubb ended up spending 10 seasons at the club but his form soon had League clubs raising their interest, particular his goal scoring record which was only bettered by England’s Harry Kane and FGR’s Christian Doidge for the calendar year of 2017 across the top five divisions in England.
“I couldn’t have envisaged that I would be at Weston for that long but it was comfortable,” he explained.
“It was my local club, I knew a lot of people around the town, it’s a friendly club, it’s not one of those big non-league clubs that throws a lot of money at it, they have a good philosophy of football.
“I’d been playing well and consistently for most of my non-league career but it was only those last couple of years that I started scoring more goals and I think at that level, a lot of professional teams only look at the goals.
“That’s when it really came to fruition that there was a chance I was going to be moving to full-time football.
“I had quite a few discussions with a few clubs but I had always looked from afar at Forest Green as the perfect club for me to take that step with the philosophy and the location and everything going on around the club.
“From an early age, that was where I could envisage playing my football and taking my step into the professional game.
“It was a wrench to leave but it was a no-brainer to leave at the same time.”
There was a familiar face at FGR that made the move easier in the form of Academy manager Scott Bartlett, who had managed Weston before heading back to The New Lawn.
It wasn’t long before Grubb was meeting manager Mark Cooper and being sold the club and where he fitted into the plans, but it wasn’t a hard sale.
All of a sudden a career in professional football that had pretty much gone from his mind was opening back up and it wasn’t long before he was explaining his move to his pupils who were asking if he’d be playing in the Champions League.
“It just shows that there is another way to make it in the game,” he said.
“I think a lot of people take different paths and my story shows that you don’t always have to make it through an academy. You can take a different route.
“It’s not as popular and it’s not always what people want to do but I think it is important that you enjoy your football and when you enjoy your football that’s when you’ll get the best out of yourselves.
“I have persevered but there were a couple of years where I had kind of given up on the idea of being a professional footballer.”
It was a transition that was almost seamless for the attacking midfielder as he notched a brace on his home debut against Cambridge United in front of his family and friends watching on and it didn’t take long before ‘Grubb, Grubb will tear you apart, again’ started to bellow out of the South Stand.
For Grubb, it justified the decision taken as a teenager, showing maturity beyond his years, and also shows that another way can be the right way for an individual and believes that professional clubs are opening their minds to such a routes.
“Nowadays in football there are so many different strings to your bow,” he said.
“It’s not just about who puts the ball in the net. There are so many good players at non-league level and with proper scouting they would get an opportunity but it’s not always possible.
“It’s becoming more and more fashionable nowadays to look to the lower levels because there is more to the team than just scoring and there are more scouting systems to unearth players rather than just looking at the goals tally.”
Now though, Grubb is enjoying the ride and concentrating with getting over a knee injury that has kept him out since the first day of the new year.
He hasn’t set himself any longer-term goals but believes he could be part of something special with FGR this campaign.
“It should be a good end to the season and hopefully we finish where we want to be, which is promotion, whether that is automatic or through the play-offs,” he added.
“I just want to be a mainstay in the team and I don’t have too many long term aims other than that, it’s just about enjoying my football and hopefully it will progress from there.”
And for vegetarian Grubb, there is support for him back home during his injury with fiancée Frankie and an unusual pet Monster, a micro-pig he adopted when moving in with his wife to be.
“It was interesting to see and when we moved in together we had the micro-pig at the bottom of the garden which is not as small as you would think,” he laughed as he explained.
“I am terrified of it today because it packs a mean punch when it hits you in the shins but it is an interesting pet to have at the bottom of the garden.”