WHEN Steven Hetherington was told he had no future at Hartlepool United after seven years at the club, he would have scoffed at any suggestion that he would be playing European football.
But four years later that’s exactly what he’s done.
Steven never banked on making it as a professional footballer, despite the fact he worked his way through the age groups at Pools’ academy from under eights to an under 16.
But when the former English Martyrs RC School and Sixth Form College student was released at 15 years old, the career he had always dreamed of was in doubt.
That was until he was spotted by scouts from Scotland on a trial day just months after his release, and was quickly tempted to a move over the border.
Glasgow giants Rangers and Celtic both showed interest and Steven opted for the blue half of the city.
But as he finished as an under-18 at the Gers, Steven wasn’t too happy to be playing at left back instead of his preferred midfield role and left by mutual consent.
In stepped Scottish Premier League club Motherwell, where Steven has had quite the start to his career – including the undoubted highlight so far of playing a Europa League game away at Spanish club Levante.
“Pools was all I had been used to because I had been there since I was an under eight,” Steven told the Mail on a trip back to town this week during the Scottish league’s winter break.
“But football is a massively opinionated sport, I was only 15 and I knew my career wasn’t over yet.”
Despite his delight at securing the move to ‘Well two years ago, a club which had been interested in signing him when he opted to join Rangers, Steven admitted he is slightly surprised to have had the first team opportunities he has had this year.
“I’ve played three first team games in the SPL and in Europe at Levante.
“I’d played in the league game before we went to Levante, but we had a few lads coming back from injury so I didn’t really bank on being in again.
“But we went for the team meeting and we got told the team and I was in, I couldn’t believe it.
“We got beat 1-0, but we had five teenagers playing.”
Steven often comes back home to visit his parents, Eileen, 51, and David, 53, who live in Muirfield Walk, in the Clavering area of town, and his brothers, Andrew, 24, and David, 26.
He keeps a close eye on the English leagues and is surprised by Pools’ poor form which has left them cast adrift at the bottom of League One.
Steven admits it’s his “dream” to play in the English Premier League.
But at the minute is enjoying his time up north at Motherwell, who are sitting pretty in third place just nine points behind Celtic.
“I think the English Premier League is the best league in the world, but the SPL is very competitive.
“I don’t think you have as much time on the ball in Scotland,” he said.
“I got my chance in Scotland and I’m really enjoying it, I just want to do as well as I can up there.”