It’s quite a comedown from Premier League new boys Sheffield United to non-league Clipstone on the tenth level of the football pyramid.
But that isn’t bothering teenager Tom Weaver, who is just delighted and grateful that the Cobras have resurrected his career and his enthusiasm for the game.
“When I was released by Sheffield United at the end of last season, it was the worst thing that could have happened,” admits the 19-year-old Weaver.
“But to find somewhere like Clipstone has been really good. If I had started the season not enjoying my football, I don’t think I would have carried on in the game – or I would have taken a break.”
Talented centre-half Weaver, who lives in Pilsley, had been at Sheffield United since the age of 12, progressing through the club’s youth system and even doing a two-year scholarship that took him to the age of 18.
But while most of Chris Wilder’s Blades spent the summer celebrating promotion to the Premier League, Weaver was left heartbroken at the news that the club no longer wanted him.
He said: “I had a few trials at other pro clubs, such as Doncaster and Burton, but no-one offered me anything, so I started looking local and non-league.
“A few of the lads at Sheffield had played under the Clipstone manager Dave Hoole, when he was at Matlock, so I knew he was good with youngsters.
“Also, I decided that when I went into men’s football, I wanted to be playing every week, not just sat on the bench.”
Hoole duly snapped him up, and Weaver has cemented his position as a regular in the Cobras’ side, making 21 appearances and winning three man-of-the-match awards.
He is a classic example of how Clipstone have put their faith in young players after two disastrous seasons. And the policy is paying off, with the team steadily climbing the East Midlands Counties League table.
“”We struggled to start with, but we have a settled side now and are playing really well,” said Weaver, who is studying sports science at Nottingham Trent University.
“I think it helps that we have so many young players because it fills us with more confidence, although, to be fair, the older lads are perfect with us as well.
“I am enjoying my football again, which is the main thing, and I think I am getting better each week.”
With more improvement, Weaver, an elegant, unflappable and committed defender, is still hopeful of realising his dream to become a pro. But for now, Clipstone suits just fine.
Thanks to Richard Silverwood for the article.