Everton defender Ben Godfrey lifts lid on being rejected by Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday

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Ben Godfrey was turned down by Middlesbrough, Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley before making a Premier League breakthrough with Norwich City and Everton.

Ben Godfrey admitted being rejected by Leeds United spurred him on to reach the highest level of football.

Godfrey's not had a conventional pathway to becoming an Everton regular starter and England international.

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Background

The defender was released by Middlesbrough as a youngster before having unsuccessful trials with Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley.

He was forced to drop down the pyramid to join his hometown club York City - who were in League Two at the time - where he made his debut aged 17.

Godfrey would earn a move to Norwich City before being snapped up by Everton for a fee rising to £25 million with add-ons in the summer of 2020.

Capable of playing centre-back and both full-back positions, Godfrey was voted Young Player of the Season in his maiden Goodison Park campaign.

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It earned him two England caps prior to Euro 2020, while he has made 26 appearances for the Toffees this term.

But Godfrey still remembers being told by a Leeds coach to go and prove him wrong after being rebuffed - and that he has.

What’s been said

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “It felt a little bit like the dream was over [after his Middlesbrough release].

“After that, there were trials with Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United. None led to a contract.

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"For them to say no was a massive confidence-breaker, really. It looked like the end of the journey.

Ben Godfrey in action for England against Romania. Picture: Lee Smith - Pool/Getty ImagesBen Godfrey in action for England against Romania. Picture: Lee Smith - Pool/Getty Images
Ben Godfrey in action for England against Romania. Picture: Lee Smith - Pool/Getty Images | Getty Images

"The moment that stands out massively is after that Leeds United trial.

“The coach told me they were not going to offer me anything but to go and prove him wrong.

“That stuck with me. I was desperate then. I could not wait to go and prove them wrong.”

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‘I had to really believe in myself’

Despite his early disappointment, Godfrey - who’s greatly admired by Everton manager Frank Lampard - wouldn’t change anything about his career.

He added: “It is a strange old journey. I looked up to those lads in academies at big clubs when doing my scholarship at York but in the long run is that beneficial for them?

“I am not so sure. I have friends who were at so-called bigger clubs than me at a younger age and we just passed each other.

“But every path is different, there is not just one route to success, you have to try to consider the best options presented to you in line with your goals.

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“I started out down the non-league route and hopefully that inspires other young players who may have been released that there are different routes to still making it in the game.

“I had to really believe in myself and never forget to put in those extra hours of hard work.

“I had to have that confidence that I would always make it to where I wanted to be. I am so grateful for the ups and the downs because they have got me to where I am today.

“I would not change any of it for the world.”

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