Joe Noakes has vowed to find a different route into professional football after seeing his Samsung’s Win A Pro Contract hopes dashed at the final hurdle.
The Farlington teenager, who is on the books at the Hawks, came through a lengthy process and got down to the last handful of players in the popular competition – with a deal at Swindon Town or Leyton Orient up for grabs for the two winners.
A final trial match at Orient’s Matchroom Stadium took place this week, with Noakes and the other 10 triallists from 5,000 entrants up against a Leyton Orient XI that included a mix of first-team, reserve and academy players.
But when watching managers Paolo Di Canio and Russell Slade had to make their final decision, the 18-year-old defender learned he was not among the final three to be invited to train with the Football League clubs.
Noakes, however, has now set his sights on breaking into the Hawks’ Blue Square Bet South first team and is certain the experience will stand him in good stead as he continues in his quest to join the professional ranks.
‘Three players got through to train with Leyton Orient and Swindon,’ said Noakes.
‘I was a bit gutted that I hadn’t got through but it has been an experience to get that far in the competition. I don’t regret doing it at all.
‘I’ve done well to get as far as I did.
‘Now I will knuckle down at the Hawks and try to get a spot in the first team.
‘If I can do that, players have gone on from non-league football into the professional game and I hope to be able to do that.’
While Noakes was happy with his display in the final match of the trial process, his side went down 3-2.
He said: ‘It was a close game and I thought I did okay.
‘They had a couple of first-team players in their side so it was a step-up in standard.
‘Paolo Di Canio and Russell Slade came in to the changing room afterwards and told us to play at the highest level we could and that we’d done very well to get as far as we had.
‘But I feel I’ve learnt so much from it all and I’ve developed as a player. It’s given me the confidence to go on.’