What happened to the boy who stood beside Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic in viral photo
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A former Chelsea academy player that posed for a picture alongside Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic has opened up about his own journey.
On the morning of August 9, 2020, a shocked Tom Carlton woke up to around 500 messages after Chelsea's official Twitter account posted a throwback picture of him alongside Mount and Pulisic at the club's training base in Cobham.
Pulisic, who was visiting the London club from Michigan, can be seen stood between Mount, who recently signed for Manchester United, and Carlton, a highly-rated goalscoring midfielder.
As the post began to go viral, many proceeded to ask the same question; what happened to the kid pictured below [right]?
"I didn’t even remember Pulisic being at Chelsea at the time until I saw the picture," Carlton told Kent Online shortly after the image went viral. "Apparently, he was there on a 10-day trial and he obviously didn’t get signed at the time.”
Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount go way back! 🤩— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 9, 2020
📷: @cpulisic_10 (June 2010) pic.twitter.com/tLMk3kzOuU
Tom, who joined Chelsea at the age six, also played alongside Declan Rice in the academy system but both players would suffer the heartache of release at 14.
Speaking about that decision, Carlton says: “It was hard to take. It was heartbreaking. For a week after I was really upset; I didn’t go back to school for the next couple of days because my head was all over the place.
"But two or three days later my dad was receiving phone call after phone call from different clubs, like West Ham, Charlton, Millwall, Fulham, Birmingham, West Brom – a lot of clubs.”
After interest from a host of clubs, Carlton would eventually join Rice in the West Ham set-up.
Two years later though, the latter would receive a professional contract, while Tom was released by the Hammers. It was another blow to his career prospects.
“It was harder to take because I chucked my life away just for football, really,” he said. “I didn’t see friends; I didn’t see anyone. After that, I was thinking, ‘I’ve done all that just to be released again’.
“I had an agent at the time and after having a chat with him, I thought I’d give it another go.”
Despite going on to sign a professional contract with Football League side Colchester, Tom eventually ended up playing semi-professional football for Herne Bay in the eighth tier.
Speaking in 2021, he said: “About last year, I wanted to quit football because I was down and depressed a lot.
“My girlfriend told me I can’t quit because I can still make it - I still have a chance. Until I’m at an age where I don’t think I can do it, I’ll still believe that I can make it into the Football League.”
Two years after that interview and Carlton spent the 2022/23 campaign playing for Isthmian League South East Division side Faversham Town.
In the interview, he also admitted that watching the likes of Mount, Rice and Pulisic thrive on the world stage has been difficult.
“It’s hard, to be honest,” Carlton said. “It’s not because of jealousy or anything like that – fair play to them for making it that far – but it could have been me and that’s why it’s so hard to watch.”