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Boot Dreams: Now or Never | Preview (BBC Three)

Footballers, aged 18 to 26, all rejected by top clubs, arrive at a unique training camp. This week they are joined by Premier league star Bruno Fernandes.

Throughout the four-week process, they’ll be visited at regular intervals by presenter Roman Kemp, who once dreamed of becoming pro himself, who will talk with the players about the experiences that have led them here.

Based at Manchester City’s former training ground, the club has been set up by former premier league player Gifton Noel-Williams. Together with coaches Jordan Broadbent and Lola Ogunbote, he wants to give these boys a second chance, and see whether one-to one mentoring, both on and off the pitch, can get them back in work, in the game they love.

Gifton needs the boys to turn into a team fast, so that they can play in front of scouts who could offer them professional contracts again. With the first game just a few days away, training starts immediately, with Gifton focussing on players in his own position: attack.

Ex-International striker Charley has had a taste of success at Tottenham and in Albania and Estonia, but now he needs a new pro club, and with a young family waiting at home, he wants to play back in the UK. He’s competing for a place in the squad with Alex, a former hotshot at Bolton Wanderers, until his career nose-dived after being arrested.

Gifton arranges a training match against Manchester International Football Academy, whose players have come from all over the world, all also hoping to make it pro. In a spirited clash, rivalry within the squad is as fierce as the competition between the teams, and as Alex dominates the first half, Charley struggles with the pressure.

Midfielder Zak, an ex-Tunisian international, also comes out strongly, but as the squad’s performance dips in the second half, his emotions get the better of him, and Gifton watches in frustration as he loses his grip on the game.

The next day, players and coaching team analyse video footage of the game. It’s clear that top goal-scorer Alex has what it takes on the pitch, so the coaches call in team psychologist Shaween to try to find out whether issues off the pitch are holding him back.

In an emotional, session, Alex reveals that at the height of his success at Bolton, he was arrested on suspicion of immigration offences. Although he was later cleared, his performance slumped and he was released. Shaween offers Alex an opportunity to talk about his experience.

Gifton turns his attention to his goalkeepers. Myles and Abidan have both played at a similar level, at Queens Park Rangers and Birmingham City respectively, so how they train will determine who Gifton selects. For Abidan, it’s a second chance, after Birmingham let him go over behaviour issues but he’s convinced he will get back in the game.

It’s obvious how important it is to the players to restart their careers, so Roman decides to visit the players’ digs to find out more about the pressure they feel. During time with midfielder Zak, he learns of the expectation he’s lived with all his life, after his Dad gave him the middle name Zidane and told him he hoped he’d have the football career he’d never had for himself.

Back at the camp, Gifton’s disappointed at the way the boys have left the dressing room and sends a message to them underlining the importance of maintaining standards. Most respond positively, but Abidan pushes back. He complains to the others that he thinks the manager is too strict. Gifton confronts him later.

Gifton wants to help Zak with managing his emotions under pressure so he calls in help in the shape of Manchester United and Portugal legend Bruno Fernandes. Famed for playing on the edge, Bruno gives Zak and team mate Theo advice on how to turn their emotions to their advantage.

While Zak and Theo are buoyed up, Abidan’s still at odds with the coaching team. Worried that he will throw away his opportunity, Gifton wants to speak to him again, and calls him in for a heart to heart. Gifton urges Abidan to stop fighting and trust that the coaches want to offer their experience to get him back in the game.

The first full game is now looming: an away match at Macclesfield FC, who play in a league where players can earn three thousand pounds a week. Scouts will be present in the stands for the first time, so Gifton needs to pick those players that can make the most of the opportunity and impress. While Zak, Alex and Myles are in, neither Charlie nor Abidan make the starting line up.

With Roman lending support from the touchline, the boys take to the pitch, but just minutes in there’s a disaster when keeper Myles is sent off for handling the ball outside the box. The episode ends as Abidan is brought on as substitute to see if he can seize his chance to impress.

Boot Dreams begins Sunday 20th August.


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