Just under 10 years ago, Albert Adomah was thinking about becoming a painter and decorator.
These days he is on the verge of becoming a Premier League footballer with promotion-chasing Middlesbrough, and last year played at a World Cup.
The Lambeth-born trickster moved to Ghana from London as a young child, honing his football skills out on the streets with his friends, returning to England prior to hitting his teenage years.
It has been hard work to realise his dream of becoming a professional footballer, but after scoring one in Boro’s 4-1 victory over Ipswich Town on Saturday, the 27-year-old is on the brink of promotion to the top-flight.
Adomah told TheFA.com said: “The last few games we have struggled. We lost against Nottingham Forest, but today gave us a chance to put it right and get three points and we’ve done that.
“It’s always great when you score after your team has been under pressure, especially when that could be the winning goal. It was great going into the break with a lead, it put pressure on Ipswich to come out and attack us in the second half, but we caught them on the break for the third and fourth goals.
“We are at the stage now where we can actually talk about promotion because we have been in the top four or five for a long time. If we can stick in those automatic promotion spots then why not?
“We just have to keep winning our games. The next game against Derby is another tough match, but if we can concentrate and get something there on Tuesday then that would be great.”
Adomah has been dancing up and down Boro’s flank since his arrival from Bristol City in 2013, and his performances led to his inclusion for Ghana’s World Cup squad in Brazil last summer.
But the stage has not always been so glamorous for the humble Adomah, who began his love of football by playing in any type of game he could get involved with.
“I was born in Lambeth. But my parents took me to Africa when I was a little toddler, so I actually lived my life in Ghana from the age of one until I was nine,” he explained.
“I did play football in Africa, but mainly I was just playing with my friends on the streets.
“But when I came back to England I moved to west London and I was playing park football, Sunday league football, amateur and combination football – every type of football, you name it, I played it!
“Five-a-side, non-league football, I was always playing as much as possible.”
At the age of 18, Adomah became a semi-pro with Isthmian League Premier Division club Harrow Borough in addition to studying a Decorative Finishing and Industrial Painting course at the College of North-West London.
“That was like eight or nine years ago. Back then when I was playing football in non-league, I never thought that I’d be playing at international or even Championship level you know,” he recalled.
“It’s just been a step-by-step procedure, working my way through the leagues up to this level.”
And having appeared at the pinnacle of world football, few would argue if the wideman chose that as his proudest moment, but Adomah sees things differently.
“When I turned pro at Barnet that was my highlight in football,” he said proudly. “It meant a lot to me to become a professional footballer. Barnet gave me that opportunity to move onto Bristol City, where I then moved on to Middlesbrough, and then I went to the World Cup last summer. It was an amazing step.
“And my next ambition is the Premier League.”
Saturday’s game between Middlesbrough and Ipswich was designated as an official Kick It Out day, dedicated to celebrating the work of football’s equality and inclusion organisation, as part of its ‘Season of Action’.
“They are always producing good work,” said Adomah. “Kick It Out is a great organisation. When you see everyone wearing the t-shirts to show other people what is going on in the game. It will help other people to put a stop to all the bad critics of Kick It Out and obviously the promotion is vital in fighting racism.
“It’s good to have days like today to help fight racism and hopefully it will continue to have an impact.”
To keep up-to-date with the latest Season of Action news, you can download the free Kick It Out app via the App Store and Google Play.