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How Hard is it to Become a Professional Football Player in the UK?

This is an age-old question that many of us have wondered at one point or another. For many children across the UK, becoming a professional footballer is the ultimate goal. A lot of people will tell you it’s unrealistic, and for many it is, but just how hard is it to become a professional football player in the UK?

What the Numbers Say

If your dream is to become a professional footballer in the UK, looking at the statistics will hardly fill you with confidence. From all the children who play in academies at the age of nine, fewer than 1% will make it professional at any level of the game. Only 180 from 1.5 million youth footballers in the UK are likely to make it all the way to the Premier League.

As despairing as those statistics are, it’s important to remember that there is a minority who do make it as professionals. Those individuals are not just talented but incredibly hard-working. The following list will run through some of the important traits that will give you the best chance of becoming a part of the lucky few.

Displaying the Right Attitude

As previously alluded to, natural talent will only get you so far in the modern game. Clubs demand far more than this, and few traits are as important as attitude. Demonstrating that you have the mental capacity to handle becoming a professional can take you a long way.

This includes dealing with setbacks, displaying sportsmanship, and showing hunger and determination to continually improve. How you respond to adversity and feedback is absolutely key. Turn negative situations into positive ones, don’t dwell on mistakes, and prove that you have a winning mentality.

football attitude


The intangible concept of motivation is crucial for anyone aspiring to make it as a professional footballer. Motivation is the driving force behind everything you do and without it, your progression will be stunted.

The idea of playing in front of thousands on a huge occasion for the team you support is a great motivator but it can be easy to lose sight of that during tough times. Focus can be difficult to maintain so you will need to be able to constantly remind yourself of what the end goal is how you’re going to get there.

football motivation


Linking nicely to motivation is confidence. This is both confidence in yourself and your ability, as well as the confidence you project. Belief in yourself is crucial. If you don’t believe in yourself, then few others will.

Equally, the confidence you exude will have a positive impact on your performance. A lack of confidence is blatantly obvious and opponents will play on that. But it works both ways. If you’re visibly self-assured, your teammates will feed off that, and the opposition will take less confidence from that. The best players are supremely confident and never let setbacks hurt their self-belief.

football confidence

Taking Care of Yourself

Aside from mental attributes, footballers have to be exceptional athletes. This is impossible without a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Getting into peak physical shape and staying there is a difficult task but you won’t become a professional unless you can do this.

Footballers require stamina, strength, agility, and pace. Not every attribute has to be truly exceptional but you will have to push yourself to the limit and be at the top of your game to have a chance. Obviously, this requires a lot of hard work and dedication but anything less and you’re almost certain to fall short of the mark.

fitness in football

Understanding Recovery

Up until this point, the advice has been largely to push yourself and work hard but you’ll be pleased to discover that there is some respite. Overdoing it is possible and recovery is vital to your development. Knowing when and how to rest will reduce the likelihood of sustaining injuries that will disrupt your growth as a footballer.

Professional footballers play an incredible amount of football but they also take care of themselves to do so. Warm downs, ice baths, and correct nutrition are all part of the recovery package. Sleep is also undeniably important so make sure you’re getting enough to properly recover from vigorous exercise.

recovery in football

A Footballing Brain

Back to mental attributes, how you think on the pitch will determine how well you can play. You may have all the skill and athleticism in the world but if you don’t know how to properly utilise that, then it’s wasted. By that same token, a brilliant footballing brain can sometimes mask other less impressive physical traits.

Being aware of your role on the pitch, tactical nuances, and having the ability to read the game are invaluable skills. Each of them are developed by watching, playing, and studying the game. By developing these skills you’ll have a better understanding of where to be and what to do.

Begin your Journey

Achieving your dreams of becoming a professional footballer is very difficult but there’s no time to waste. If you’re serious about giving it a go make sure you give yourself the best chance and take the aforementioned advice. Also, consider joining a soccer school near you where you can work and progress all of the skills mentioned above.

If you live in and around the London area, why not consider Samba Soccer Schools? We teach football the Brazilian way and aim to create a fun and engaging environment where kids can develop their football skills.

We have also helped some students get spotted by professional clubs such as Chelsea FC, Fulham FC and West Ham FC. For more information, click here.

FAQs About Becoming A Professional Footballer

Is it hard to become a professional football player?

In a word – yes. However, there are several things you can improve on to give you the best chance detailed above.

How do you become a professional footballer?

There are a lot of different paths but the primary thing is to have the right attributes, some of which are explained in the article above.

What are the odds of becoming a professional football player in the UK?

Very slim. Some of the statistics are mentioned in the above article.

Is it too late to become a professional footballer?

Unless you’re deep into your 30s, it is never too late. There are plenty of examples of top players who had their breaks late on in their careers.

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