Marko Marosi’s hard work has been rewarded with a first professional contract with FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic - but he knows he will now have to work harder to keep his dream alive.
The 19-year-old has spent the second half of the season on an extended trial with the Latics, and last week he got the news he was desperate to hear when he was called into manager Roberto Martinez’s office - before his departure.
Burnley-based Marosi, who has just completed his Advanced level Public Services course at Burnley College, was handed a one-year deal with Wigan, and he admitted it was a dream come true.
He said: “I was very nervous, I was one of the last lads to find out their future.
“I walked in, and I was sweating. The manager was there, and the Under 21 coaches Graham Barrow and Dennis Lawrence, and they just said ‘we’re offering you a contract’.
“The manager said I deserved it, that I’d come a long way.
“It was brilliant - it is all I’ve ever wanted.
“I can’t imagine my life without football, and now I have a chance to make a career for myself, and make my family proud. I’ve worked hard to get to this point, but I know the h ard work really starts now.”
Marko, who was playing for the Burnley College Football Academy, has represented the North West and England Colleges squads, last year was training three times a week with Blackburn Rovers’ Youth Academy, and was also selected for Manchester City’s Rishworth Project, funded by City owner Sheikh Mansour and coached by former Burnley striker Gareth Taylor.
He also played for Barnoldswick Town in the North West Counties Premier Division this season.
But, following a recommendation from former Wigan defender Barry Knowles, head coach at Burnley College Football Academy, he has taken his chance at Wigan with both hands.
It’s been along, hard road for the youngster, who was born in Slovakia, before moving to Burnley with his mum and dad in his early teens: “It’s not all been about the hard work of the last five or six months at Wigan, it’s everything which led up to that.
“I didn’t play at college in the first year, and that summer I got my head down and worked hard. I never doubted myself, and all the knocks make you stronger.
“I wanted to prove people wrong, and I started playing in the second team, and then the college Academy team, and it’s gone from there - England Colleges and now Wigan.
“I just needed the last six months or so to prove myself - you only get one shot sometimes, and fortunately I’ve got an opportunity now.”
His parents are thrilled, and he added: “Mum and dad are so proud, and they’ve been brilliant, driving me here, there and everywhere, whuile I used to train with my dad individually.
“When we came over, I didn’t speak any English, I came as a foreigner, and I’ve made all my friends through football really.
“I wouldn’t want to go through that again, comingto another country and not knowing anyone, but it’s worked out well.”
Marko, whose goalkeeping hero is Czech Republic and Chelsea’s Peter Cech, is also on the radar of his country, Slovakia, and playing for his nation is another big ambition: “My grandad and the rest of the family are still over there, and it would be incredible to play for Slovakia.
“I’ve been nominated for a reserve squad, but they don’t know a lot about me and will have to keep an eye on me.”
Another aim is to break into the Wigan 18 - with one game in particular appealing to Marko after the Latics’ relegation to the Championship: “It would be the best thing ever to be in the squad for the game at Turf Moor - all my mates are Burnley fans, so that would be something else.”