If Luca Collins does do enough to win himself a professional deal at Colchester United next season, the young goalkeeper admits he will owe AFC Sudbury and Danny Laws a big debt of gratitude.
The goalkeeper, who turns 18 later this month, is continuing to split his time between the Sky Bet League Two club’s Category 2 academy and fulfilling the rest of his sport diploma at AFC Sudbury Academy.
But the extended trial he is currently enjoying at the Essex club could have never come to fruition if he was not taken on by Laws at AFC’s academy while still recovering from surgery on his shoulder.
The goalkeeper’s injury, which ended up keeping him off the pitch for seven months, saw him released by Ipswich Town after almost two years at the Sky Bet Championship club.
It was both Sudbury’s close links with Ipswich and their willingness to be patient with helping Collins’ path to recovery that has seen his dream of earning a professional contract re-ignited this season — a fact not lost on the Chelmsford-based teenager.
“A lot of the Ipswich boys who did not do a scholarship went to Sudbury and, fortunately, they were not too worried about my shoulder,” he said.
“Danny (Laws, head of academy) does a great job and the success of last year proves it.
“Across Suffolk academies we are a dominant force at under-18 level (won quadruple last season).
“It shows all the academy players that you can go into non-league and it is not the end of the world. If you just take a step back you will get a chance if you play well and you have the right people behind you.”
Ironically, Collins had been looking to link up with Colchester before he got injured, so now he is revelling in a second chance after goalkeeping coach and former pro Paul Smith kept a close eye on his progress under Laws, who has also established good links between AFC and Colchester.
“We got a call (at AFC Sudbury Academy) in the new year to say they needed an under-18s goalkeeper for training and that it would be a good opportunity for me,” said Collins.
“I have been playing for the under-18s and have been on the bench for the under-23s numerous times, including away at Newcastle in the Premier League Cup.
“Obviously I am not sure what next year holds. At the moment all I can do is play with Colchester, which is a good experience for me, and the ultimate goal is to get a professional contract.”
The now six-foot two-inch goalkeeper, who was at Southend United from the ages of nine to 15, at the same time Smith was playing at Roots Hall, added: “I have been at pro clubs my whole life — from under-9s to under-16s — and I found it hard after Ipswich.
“I have come back into it though, and it is brilliant and a completely different lifestyle.”
“Paul has been brilliant giving me the chance to help further my career. It is good to get coaching from an ex-pro.”