Turned down by Portsmouth - now Southsea lad Jordan Ngalo targeting Football League breakthrough
Jordan Ngalo hasn't had your archetypal footballing journey so far.
The Southsea lad has never honed his craft in a Football League academy. In fact, he had four years out of the game as a teenager.
But as the 21-year-old prepares for the National League South play-offs with Weymouth this weekend, he's coveting a future in the professional ranks.
Despite being a Pompey fan, Ngalo only ever had one opportunity to impress his hometown club.
That came in the summer of 2017, shortly after Kenny Jackett had taken the Fratton Park hot seat.
A regular for Blackfield & Langley at the age of 18, manager Glenn Howes arranged for him to go on trial with the Blues.
Ngalo would make a favourable impression – although he wasn't offered a PO4 deal.
Too old to play for the academy, but not ready for Pompey's League One return, the non-existence of an under-23s set-up meant the midfielder was turned down.
Ngalo could fathom the reason why, however, and still relished the experience.
He said: ‘I went in for a trial when I was 18 but I didn't really get a fair shot.
‘My manager at Blackfield & Langley sorted it and I was excited as I knew it would be good for me no matter the outcome.
‘There was a training game and I was playing for the youth team against the first team, but I was a year too old to sign for the academy.
‘The likes of Christian Burgess and Jamal Lowe played and I felt comfortable in there. As much as a test it was, I felt comfortable because I'd been playing non-league and got used to the physical side of things.
‘It was very unfortunate as I felt I could have taken my chance if I'd have been offered something.
‘I spoke to Pompey and they told me it was unfortunate they didn't have an under-23s group because they thought I'd have been good enough for that but not for the first team.
‘Personally, I felt the same. I'd have liked to have had a shot at the first team but physically I wasn't quite ready.
‘If there was an under-23s group then it would have suited me as I was good enough technically, but I enjoyed every second of it.'
That didn't knock Ngalo back, however.
His career has continued on an upward trajectory, taking him to the higher echelons of the non-league pyramid.
Having previously represented England Colleges, the midfielder completed a switch from Blackfield & Langely to Weymouth in January 2018.
The following season, he helped the Terras yield the Southern League premier division south title.
Ngalo's remained a key player this season as the Dorset outfit bid for back-to-back promotions.
Weymouth finished third in the National League South after the campaign was curtailed amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
They’re now preparing to face Dorking in the play-off semi-finals on Saturday (3pm). They'll then meet either the Hawks or Dartford in the final on August 1.
But there's more than just a spot in the National League at stake for Ngalo.
The former St Edmunds Catholic School pupil has attracted admirers from League One, League Two and the Scottish Premier League.
They'll all be running the rule over his performances ahead of a potential switch this summer.
Ngalo, who played for Gosport Borough and the Hawks as a junior, is desperate to break into the professional game – and is ready to seize his opportunity.
He added: ‘The journey I have taken has helped me a lot more than I thought it would have.
‘Growing up, you think going through an academy is the only way to make it professionally.
‘But I've come to learn that in non-league, you are fighting for three points every week and for titles. It's a lot more cut-throat than under-23s football.
‘I feel like it has really helped my game mentally and physically.
‘I've been lucky I've played in sides who have been challenging at the top and won the Wessex League premier division and Southern League premier division south – now hopefully promotion from the National League South.
‘I've got my chance and it's there for me to take. I'm really excited and will try to do the best for my team.
‘It's better to be on the winning side and you get more chances that way. It's a good opportunity for me to showcase my skills and hopefully get my chance somewhere.
‘I want to break into the professional game, learn and get as good as I possibly can. With an opportunity and a chance, wherever it maybe, then I'd be more than happy.
‘I think I'm at the age where I need to prove what I am capable of and I'm ready for that challenge.
‘I'm hoping this is the year that I can really crack on with things and push forward.’