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AFC Sudbury starlet Tyler French has Premier League dream burning bright inside him

After clocking up his landmark 100th appearance for AFC Sudbury, Tyler French has revealed he has not been put off achieving his dream of breaking into the professional game – despite the mental strain rejections have caused.

Speaking for the first time publicly about moves to Premier League sides Crystal Palace and Leicester City breaking down over the last few years, he admitted that both had taken their toll.

But, now feeling he is showing his best form to AFC’s fans again, after getting his head down following signing a three-year contract, he has not been put off achieving the main goal in his life.

FULLY FOCUSED: Tyler French, who has just played his 100th game for AFC Sudbury Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
FULLY FOCUSED: Tyler French, who has just played his 100th game for AFC Sudbury Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

“For me as a boy all I ever dreamed of and wanted to do, and still want to do, is to play professional football,” he told the Free Press.

“It is something I thought would never happen but then there was the Premier League interest.”

Following a three-month period training at Ipswich Town, it was at the end of 2016 that The Eagles of Palace swooped to take French from under the Sky Bet Championship club’s noses.

After a six-week period training and playing in their Under-23s and U18s, it all came down to a transfer deadline day rush, which ultimately built up the then 17-year-old’s hopes before cruelly snatching it away from him after the clubs could not agree on a financial package.

“I was on my way home from playing a game with the U18s on deadline day that the U23s coach had been watching and only got 10 minutes away before we got a call telling us to turn around as they wanted to offer me a deal,” said French, whose father Tony played for Sudbury and is a former Long Melford player and manager.

“I went back and had discussions and they offered me a two-year contract and I was over the moon and could not quite believe it was real.

“I even phoned my parents and told them, but then things went a bit off from there and it did not end up happening, which was a massive disappointment.”

Although Long Melford-based French was prepared to move on with the club he came through the ranks with, as the first crop of full-time academy graduates, current manager Mark Morsley says it was AFC who let him down.

“The situation with Crystal Palace was handled a bit badly by the football club,” he said.

“It was not any one individual’s fault, but if a professional club comes in now for one of our players it is a situation which has been resolved.

“We managed to get Tyler to sign a new three-year contract (a year ago) and said to him if he still has ambitions to play in the pro game he has got to get his head down and play consistently for AFC Sudbury.

“I have to say I am amazed no pro club has come in for him over the last year.

“I have seen enough U23s and youth football to know he is head and shoulders above anything a pro club has got in their U23s or U18s.

“But while he is with us he is continuing to learn and play an important role at this club.”

French got another opportunity in the summer, with a trial from a former Sudbury coach who now works at Leicester City. But despite being asked to stay on and go on a pre-season tour to Prague with their youth team, he was ultimately dealt some more bad news.

“When I came back they said I was nothing better than they already had for their U23s, which was fair enough,” he said.

“I had chances to leave with offers from other clubs, but I felt at the time Sudbury was the best place for me to play football with me being comfortable there, and the 3G pitch which allows me to play my best football.

“With Mark (Morsley) coming in it sounded good with what he wanted to do.”

Contract extension negotiations had started under Jamie Godbold but came to fruition under Morsley after he arrived in late October.

Reflecting on how it all affected him the 19-year-old defender said: “It was difficult. I was probably not in the best of head spaces for a bit, but now I am just trying to let my football do the talking and hopefully I will get another chance.

AFC Sudbury Tyler French action v Gosport Borough FA Trophy. (5306440)
AFC Sudbury Tyler French action v Gosport Borough FA Trophy. (5306440)

“I am confident I will as I am confident in my ability and all I have got to do is continue to play the way I can.”

Paul Hayes’ summer arrival, with the 35-year-old having clocked up more than 500 Football League appearances across 10 clubs, has been helpful for the teenager, especially as he has made the move to branch into football agency work.

“He has given me even more encouragement in my ability and he has no doubt in what I can do with it and where I can go,” said French.

Hayes was back in his more familiar number nine position, having featured as a sweeper in his last two substitute appearances, as AFC drew 1-1 at mid-table Great Wakering Rovers on Saturday to leave them 15th in the Bostik League North Division table.

Manager Morsley said: “I know their manager Gary Kimble well and he came up to me afterwards and said ‘I do not know how you did not win that; you battered us’.

“The first 20 minutes was poor from both sides but after that we domineered the first half but went in at 0-0.

“We conceded in the first 30 seconds but the reaction was really good and we equalised after 10 minutes (via a John Mbamarah own-goal).

“After that Joe Whight hit the bar with a free-kick, the ball was cleared off the line twice and their goalkeeper was flying about making saves. It was one of those.”

AFC will be looking to break their home duck, having not won in four Bostik League games at King’s Marsh this season, when second-placed Basildon United visit on Saturday (3pm).

The newly-promoted Essex side were the division’s early pacesetters but have now lost back-to-back games.

“Their manager has left and their budget has been cut, so I do not know what to expect from the game and I know it is a clichè but if we concentrate on doing what we do well I think we can win the game,” said Morsley, who then takes his side to Stowmarket Town in the Suffolk Premier Cup quarter-final on Tuesday (7.45pm).