Clarets teenager Dwight McNeil inspired by Manchester United setback
The winger feared the worst when he was released by Manchester United as a 14-year-old, but, having seen the careers that captain Tom Heaton and defender Phil Bardsley have gone on to enjoy since experiencing similar setbacks, the teenager is feeling upbeat.
The senior Clarets pair have gone on to make more than 500 appearances between them domestically, after leaving Old Trafford and both have represented their countries.
McNeil, who joined Burnley’s academy in 2014, has similar ambitions and has sought the advice and guidance of his peers.
“It’s given me more drive, to keep doing well,” he said. “I left United when I was 14, which was a major setback for me but I’ve become a better player since coming here.
“I’ve learned more, especially out of possession. I think it’s been a better move for me. It’s been really good.
“You speak to them (Heaton and Bardsley) about it and they tell you what they have gone through.
“They help you along the way, on and off the pitch which is something really good to have. It doesn’t really matter at that age.
“When you are that young you have a lot of time on your hands so you have to keep going. If you want to play football you’ve got to keep going. Then when I’ve got my chance I can’t get too ahead of myself, I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground.”
McNeil isn’t struggling for influential figures on the outside, either.
The 19-year-old models his game on United legend Ryan Giggs, now manager of the Wales national team.
And he holds his Dad, Matty, who played for Stockport County and Macclesfield Town in the Football League in high regard.
“The one I really looked up to was Ryan Giggs, he was my main idol when I was younger and I always wanted to be like him.
“I am trying (to model my game on him) but still have a lot to improve. I have to take it game by game really and just try to keep the shirt.
“It’s been a dream come true and I think I’ve taken my chance really well. I haven’t changed my game at all coming from the Under-23s to the first team. I’ve been told to just do what I do.”
He added: “When I was younger my Dad always guided me.
“He still guides me now and tells me where I need to improve. He is always there to support me.
“He thought his football (in the lower divisions) was a bit tougher but that I’m handling it really well. It’s really nice to have him there guiding me through it.”