‘I made things difficult for myself earlier in my career’ – new Hawks signing Josh Passley on his off-field struggles

Josh Passley appeared to have the world at his feet when he made his Fulham debut in an FA Cup fourth round tie at Sheffield United in January 2014.

By Lewis Mason
Sunday, 30th May 2021, 3:28 pm
New Hawks signing Josh Passley in action during his loan spell at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
New Hawks signing Josh Passley in action during his loan spell at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

Lining up in a team that included Champions League winner John Arne Riise, two-time Premier League champion Damien Duff and England international Darren Bent, the full-back would have been excused for thinking this was a first taste of what was to come throughout his career.

Then, less than three years after his senior Fulham bow - and just one more club appearance - Passley had dropped out of the game completely.

Issues away from the field had taken their toll and, after leaving then EFL club Dagenham & Redbridge in the summer of 2016, he remained without a club for many months.

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Passley, 26, who recently signed a two-year deal with Hawks after leaving Dover, had used football as an 'escape' from his off-field struggles throughout his career.

But those issues had remained while at Fulham, during loan spells with Pompey and Shrewsbury and in his time with the Daggers.

'I’d say I made things difficult for myself at times earlier in my career, being a bit hard-headed and maybe not listening to the correct advice and doing what I wanted to do,’ he told The News.

‘I’ve learnt from those lessons and it’s made me a better player and person who I am today.

‘I had a couple of options but my head wasn’t really in it at the time (football). There was a lot of stuff going on behind closed doors that I couldn’t fully commit to football.

‘I had to work on myself and stuff going on before I could fully commit to anything. There were things with family and a lot of things.

‘I’d been dealing with it prior to being at Portsmouth to Shrewsbury and on from then.

Football was kind of an escape from it but when it wasn’t an escape I had to really get on with it and face what was going on.

‘I wouldn’t say I was ever done with it (football), but I just needed time away from it to really sort out everything.'

It was former Brentford, Northampton and Oxford goalkeeper Andy Woodman and Whitehawk who would provide the defender with an opportunity to get back into the game.

Passley would make a handful of appearances for the Brighton-based club in the National League South towards the end of the 2016-17 season.

That brief spell appeared to rejuvenate him with Dover making their move in the summer of 2017.

Passley said: ‘Everyone has those times where you think, ‘I’m not really sure what I want'.

‘But I took time to myself to think about what I really did want and decided this (football) is what I wanted to do.

‘It made me take a step back and really re-evaluate and realise how I was and made me work on those problems that went on behind closed doors.

'I can’t dwell on what’s happened, I apologise for what’s ever happened in the past, and got on with it really.

‘I’m very thankful (to Dover). They took a chance on me when I’d had almost a year out of the game.

‘I’d played for a while at Whitehawk and they took a chance on me. I left Dagenham and I wasn’t anywhere until about (the following) April.

‘I just played one month at Whitehawk and went straight into Dover the following summer.'

But now, after making 101 appearances across a four-year stay with Dover, Passley is taking on a new challenge.

He's committed to a two-year deal at Westleigh Park, with the clear aim to get Hawks back into the National League.

It'll be just the second time Passley has played below the fifth tier in his career - following on from his brief Whitehawk spell - but it's a new chapter he's relishing.

Passley said: 'That’s every little kid’s aspiration who comes into football, you want to play as high as you possibly can. That was the goal but I’m here now and ready to kick on.

‘This is the year we have to come out the gates flying and go straight into the National League.'