Advert

Latest

4 hours ago
Advert
5 hours ago
Advert

Most Popular

14 hours ago
Advert

Where Are They Now? The Final 10 Contestants From TV Show Football's Next Star

Where Are They Now? The Final 10 Contestants From TV Show Football's Next Star

Ten years ago, the chance of becoming Football's Next Star was just a dream but after 7,000 applicants, seven hour-long episodes and a tense final showdown, Ben Greenhalgh was offered a six-month professional contract with Inter Milan.

The talented winger, from Orpington in London, went on to spend a further 12 months at Inter before returning to Britain to play for Inverness, Maidstone United, Concord Rangers and Dartford.

Advert

But what happened to the other nine contestants who reached the final stages of the competition? Where are they now?

Football's Next Star was a god-tier show in 2010.
Football's Next Star was a god-tier show in 2010.

From 10th place Dominic Matcham, who had trials at Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers, to Connor Smith, who made eight appearances in the Championship for Watford, SPORTbible caught up with some of the guys to see how things have been, 10 years on from the first roadshow in 2010.

Dominic Matcham (Eliminated in episode two)

A technical centre midfielder from Cornwall, Dominic was the first contestant to pack his bags after Inter Milan coach Marco Monti uttered those famous words: "I'm sorry...".

Advert

Following his exit from Football's Next Star, the youngster had trials with Cardiff City and QPR but after turning 17, he penned a one-year youth contract at Rotherham United.

Matcham moved to Yorkshire but wasn't offered a professional contract by the Football League side and returned to complete his A-Levels before going to Loughborough University to study International Business.

He now owns a Sports Marketing and Events company called INVADES.

Image: Dominic Matcham/Facebook
Image: Dominic Matcham/Facebook

How did you find the Football's Next Star experience? What did you learn from it?

Being first to be eliminated was incredibly tough but the show has given me great memories to look back on, along with unlimited levels of abuse/banter when playing Saturday and Sunday League.

Learning first-hand the culture and philosophy of Italian football was fascinating. I think the experience proved to me just how competitive and how high the standards are to in order to become a professional at the top level.

It also taught me to really take every opportunity that is presented as you never know where it can take you.

Tell us your stand out moment from the series.

When Jamie Redknapp told me that my first-half performance had pretty much cost me my place on the plane.

Image: Dominic Matcham/Twitter
Image: Dominic Matcham/Twitter

Jordan Fincher (Eliminated in episode three)

A ball-playing centre-back from London, the defender was introduced to those watching at home as the cousin of former Premier League player Anthony Gardner.

He initially impressed the Italian coaches after a number of composed performances at the back but in week three, he returned to England after struggling in a friendly against Inter Milan U17s.

Fincher clearly captured the eye of a number of clubs, even if his spell on Football's Next Star was cut short.

He had trials at Portsmouth and Cardiff but eventually signed for Barnet, where he made a number of appearances at U18 level.

The defender last played for Romulus FC, a semi-pro side based in Birmingham.

Image: Jordan Fincher/Flickr
Image: Jordan Fincher/Flickr

Reece McGillion (Eliminated in episode four)

A solid defender from Glasgow who could play across the line, McGillion impressed with his decision making on numerous occasions throughout the competition but after being included in the danger zone in week four, Marco Monti decided to send the defender home after a match against Monza.

The Scotsman was another player to pick up trials after his spell on Football's Next Star. He trained with a number of teams in Scotland following the show and also picked up a trial at Cardiff City but eventually, Reece decided to sign for Hamilton Academical.

After impressing at the club, he was on the verge of joining Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock.

Unfortunately he failed his medical because of a hip problem, which he still has to this day. That was the last time McGillion played full-time football after injury issues.

He now plays for amateur side Renfrew Juniors while juggling his full-time job in the Fire Service.

Image: Reece McGillion/Facebook
Image: Reece McGillion/Facebook

Advert

How did you find the Football's Next Star experience? What did you learn from it?

To go and live in Lake Como, while playing and training with Inter Milan, was just a surreal experience in itself. The footballing side of it was very intense and challenging but a privilege, even if it was just for a short period. Looking back I feel it helped me mature as a person.

I definitely appreciate it more looking back. It was a once in a life time opportunity that I'm proud I did.

Tell us your stand out moment from the series.

To be given my number three Inter Milan shirt and seeing how happy and proud my dad was.

Image: Reece McGillion/Instagram
Image: Reece McGillion/Instagram

Anthony O'Connor (Eliminated in episode five)

A speedy winger from Wembley, O'Connor was known by many viewers as the guy who compared himself to Thierry Henry and Theo Walcott in episode one.

The youngster looked dangerous from wide areas, providing his teammates with several assists, but he was eventually eliminated from Football's Next Star in week five after a game against Inter Milan's Primavera youth team.

Since leaving the show, Anthony has played semi-professional football in the Southern and Isthmian Leagues.

The forward has played as far south as Folkestone and as far North as Daventry Town. He's also become a self-confessed "boring" accountant.

Image: Football's Next Star/Sky One
Image: Football's Next Star/Sky One

How did you find the Football's Next Star experience? What did you learn from it?

It was really good, considering I was able to meet Jose [Mourinho] and experience the dynamics of a professional football club outside of England.

I learned that it takes an incredible amount of discipline, as well as talent of course, to become a professional footballer and probably more than what I was willing to give at the time of the show.

Tell us your stand out moment from the series.

My stand out moment on the show was probably when I said I could probably be the next Thierry Henry or Theo Walcott.

I was extremely cocky at the time and that statement still haunts me to this day. Every year my mate tweets a video of me saying it to take the piss.

Image: Anthony O'Connor/Twitter
Image: Anthony O'Connor/Twitter

Nathan Simpson (Eliminated in episode five)

A pacey full-back from east London, Simpson was one of the biggest personalities in the group.

The young right-back looked a real talent but he was never consistent enough to make it into the final stages.

In week five, after training and playing against Primavera, who are Inter's top youth squad, the Italian coaches opted to send Simpson home after being in the danger zone.

There is very little information on Simpson's progress after the show and after trying to get in contact, we still aren't sure if he's currently playing football or not.

Image: Football's Next Star/Sky One
Image: Football's Next Star/Sky One

Gavin Colton (Eliminated in episode six)

A no-nonsense centre-back from County Kildare, the defender would always play with his heart on his sleeve, and famously wanted to play on despite breaking his arm against Monza's youth team in episode four.

He was eventually sent home in the penultimate episode after the final five were whittled down to three.

Following the show, a number of clubs expressed an interest in Colton but he eventually joined Hull City and "liked it a lot". He was promoted to train with the reserves but it didn't work out at the Championship side.

Colton then went on to study in Dublin, where he was offered a scholarship to play at the University of Kentucky for four years.

He is now studying for a Master's degree in Creative Writing, and also coaches a women's team in the Kentucky area.

Image: Football's Next Star/Sky One
Image: Football's Next Star/Sky One

How did you find the Football's Next Star experience? What did you learn from it?

It was a fantastic experience for me. I'd never been under that kind of pressure before, fighting for a contract at Inter Milan. I was young and emotional. At times it felt like the whole world was going to fall through from under me if I had a bad training session or made a mistake in a game.

I quickly learned how to focus myself in moments of adversity, to push through difficult moments in games.

Tell us your stand out moment from the series.

The day we went to watch the first team train at their ground, which was separate from the academy. I'd snuck my boots onto the bus with the intention of training with Vieira, Zanetti, Lúcio and Samuel Eto'o.

One of the assistant coaches came over and shook our hands. I showed him my boots - a pair of Umbro' - and asked him if I could jump in. He went over to Mourinho and a couple of minutes later, he whistled and gave me a wave to come over.

My whole body sunk into itself. I'm standing behind Balotelli, trying to decide if I'm better off defending or attacking here. Balotelli ballooned one over the bar, everyone's laughing at him. I can't even breath at this point, sweating bullets.

I was thinking that this is all my dreams come true at once. They could've confiscated my boots there and then and I'd have died happy.


Hicham Abdellah (Eliminated in episode six)

A clinical forward from London, the cheeky-chappy character was one of the biggest personalities on Football's Next Star.

Abdellah was the top scorer in the competition and was selected as Man of the Match on a number of occasions. Jamie Redknapp was right when he said: "Hicham always seems to score."

But the striker was eventually eliminated from the show alongside Gavin Colton, just a week before the final.

The youngster went on to enjoy a successful stint in football. He accepted a two-year scholarship with Southend United following the show but failed to make the grade.

Since being released by the Shrimpers, he's played professionally in Cyprus, first for Aspis Pyla and then for Digenis Oroklinis.

He now plays for Isthmian League South side Uxbridge.

Image: Sky One
Image: Sky One


Craig Walsh (
Eliminated in episode seven)

A talented centre midfielder from Dublin, Walsh was many people's early favourite to win Football's Next Star.

He often impressed Marco Monti and the Italian coaches with his composure and drive in the middle of the park, and looked at home against Inter's under-17s and Monza but it was homesickness that often held him back.

Craig was eventually eliminated in the final episode and came third in the competition.

What many people don't know is that the midfielder put his career on hold in Ireland to fight for the Inter Milan contract, and missed out on a potential deal to join West Brom as a result - a decision he recently said he regrets.

"Looking back, I was offered a contract there and I never took it. I was never too keen on it. I had been at West Brom previous to that and they made me an offer." he told The42.

"If I hadn't done the Inter Milan thing at the time, I probably would have signed for West Brom because it was a decent enough offer. I ended up thinking of the bigger picture of Italy and Jose Mourinho - all the superstars."

Following the show, Walsh played for Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Bray Wanderers after a 12 month doping ban.

The 28-year-old now plays for Crumlin United and is a coach at the Little Maestros soccer academy in Dublin.

Image: Sky One
Image: Sky One

Connor Smith (Runner-up)

A forward from County Westmeath, Smith reached the final after being arguably the most consistent performer across all seven episodes.

The Irish striker rarely found the net but his work rate and potential was there for all to see. He didn't look out of place when the two finalists trained with the Inter first team either as Jose Mourinho looked on.

But it wasn't to be for Smith, who narrowly missed out to Greenhalgh in the final episode.

Despite failing to win the contract at I Nerazzurri, the youngster went on to forge the most successful career after Football's Next Star.

He joined the academy set-up at Watford in 2010 and after loan spells at Gillingham and Stevenage, Smith was offered a professional contract in 2012. The Irishman made his debut against Crystal Palace in the Championship later that year and made a total of eight appearances for The Hornets.

In the coming years, Connor would play in the Football League for AFC Wimbledon, Plymouth and Yeovil, as well as Boreham Wood and Billericay.

The 27-year-old now plays for National League South side Wealdstone.

Image: Connor Smith/Sky One
Image: Connor Smith/Sky One

Ben Greenhalgh (Winner)

A skilful winger from Orpington, Greenhalgh was offered a six-month professional contract with European giants Inter after winning Football's Next Star.

After a tense hour-long final episode, the youngster was greeted with the line everyone wanted to hear. Marco Monti uttered the words: "Well done, you have won" and the journey had officially begun.

He clearly impressed in Milan and once his six-month contract had run out, the winger re-signed for a following season, which included a four-month loan spell at Calcio Como.

But it never worked out with the Serie A side and he returned to England. Greenhalgh soon began training with Brighton's reserve team but his career would taken a huge twist if he had failed to seal the contract at Inter.

Back in 2018, Ben told SPORTbible that Harry Redknapp, who was in charge at Tottenham in 2010, would have offered him a two-year contract if he had not been crowned the winner.

It wasn't to be at Brighton but he soon enjoyed spells at Concord Rangers, Ebbsfleet United and Scottish side Inverness Caledonian Thistle before spells at various other non-league clubs.

He has also been part of talent agency Select Sport Artists, who originally cast him as a Cristiano Ronaldo body double and since that gig, he doubled for players such as Mesut Ozil, Gareth Bale, Robin van Persie, Luke Shaw and Lionel Messi.

The 28-year-old is now a player/academy manager at National League South side Dartford.

Image: Ben Greenhalgh/Sky One
Image: Ben Greenhalgh/Sky One

How did you find the Football's Next Star experience? What did you learn from it?

Being on the show was probably my greatest moment in football.

You're stuck in a dream world where everything just kept getting better and better. In my mind there was no pressure. I was just taking it all in. I had been under the radar for a few months since winning the show before it was aired but after the first episode my Facebook account crashed and that's when it all kicked in.

The show itself was a positive experience and I learned how to keep my head in tough situations like 'the danger zone' which was a lot more nerve racking than it looked because it would take us hours to film before we even found out who was going to stay.

Being chucked in the deep end with massive names like Vieira and Quaresma has helped me today to feel no pressure in games.

Image: Ben Greenhalgh/Twitter
Image: Ben Greenhalgh/Twitter

What are your favourite memories of the show?

Let us know in the comments.

Featured Image Credit: Sky One

Topics: Football News, Football, TV

Jack Kenmare

Jack Kenmare is a writer at SPORTbible. He's interviewed some of the biggest names in sport, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pele, Carles Puyol and Tim Henman. He dabbles in all things sport but football is his biggest passion. He was once hit in the head by a wayward strike from Nicky Butt and lived to tell the tale.

 

Next Up

N'Golo Kante Now Has Hair And 2020 Is Officially Mental

N'Golo Kante Now Has Hair And 2020 Is Officially Mental

17 days ago