‘This is the dream, so I’ve taken it’ – Fareham’s Casey Bartlett Scott on signing professional for USA club Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Casey Bartlett-Scott thought any chance he had of becoming a professional footballer had bypassed him.
But having made the move into the game full-time with American USL Championship outfit Pittsburgh Riverhounds at the age of 26, he’s eager to capitalise on his big chance.
The Copnor-based defender is taking the huge step from Wessex League Premier Division side Fareham Town - in England's ninth tier - to sign for a team playing one level below the MLS.
Bartlett-Scott admitted he's taken a bit of a 'risk' quitting the project manager apprenticeship he started with Portsmouth City Council earlier this year to pursue his passion and commit to a professional deal with Pittsburgh.
But the former South Downs College student reckons had he not accepted the offer he might have lived to regret not giving it a crack.
He explained: 'I’m definitely looking to go out there and make a career out of it.
‘It’s quite old to go your first year as a pro at 26. I thought it was my last chance to do it, so why not?
‘I just want to go there, have a good season, if they don’t renew it (my contract) then ideally I’ll go somewhere. The plan is to make a name for himself out there.
‘I’d hate to go back and in a couple of years’ time think, ‘what if?
’‘It was a really hard decision because I’ve just started an apprenticeship with the council as a project manager.
‘I sort of had a career set up here now so I was wondering whether to stick with that - it might be better in the long run - but this is the dream so I’ve taken it.
‘It was my last chance to do it and I thought ‘why not go for it’.'
Pittsburgh have long been admirers of Bartlett-Scott but rejected the chance to sign him after a trial last year because he wasn't 'tall enough'.
The Portsmouth lad spent four years in the States mixing football with his studies on scholarships at both St Louis Community College and Columbia College, but returned to the south coast of England last year.
However, the Riverhounds have retained their interest since the defender returned to Hampshire and have now handed him a nine-month contract with the option of a further year.
On the back of the 'bizarre' reason he was given for his initial Pittsburgh trial snub, Bartlett-Scott is now looking forward to moving back out to the States and focusing on football full-time.
He said: ‘I went there (Pittsburgh) around February last year, it all went well and stuff, but they said I wasn’t tall enough. It was quite odd really because they got me there and said I wasn’t tall enough.
‘It was a bit bizarre for them to do that, but I accepted it and moved on.
‘Pittsburgh kept in contact the whole time and they just said if I was interested in doing a trial again to come out and it was a bit like, ‘come on, I was just out there’.
‘They still kept in contact, they got in contact with me again about six weeks or so or something, they said they still wanted me to do a trial.
‘But I was a bit blunt and said the only way I was going out was for a contract because I’d started a new job here and I’d got restarted again after having a weird couple of setbacks in a year.
‘It’s only for like nine months, the duration of the season; basically they’ve said there’s an option to renew the contract at the end if they like the look of me.'
Bartlett-Scott's international clearance has already gone through, so that rules him out of being able to feature for Fareham - the club he joined last summer after returning to Portsmouth - in their massive FA Vase third round tie at Plymouth Parkway on April 10.
He admitted it's 'annoying' he won't be able to be a part of the Reds’ bid to make club history in the competition by reaching the last 32 for the first time.
With Bartlett-Scott still waiting for approval for his US Visa, it means he could still be in England when Fareham return to action in the Vase.
‘It’s quite annoying really, I would have liked to have played that game because I helped them get there and it would be nice to be a part of it with the boys,’ he remarked. ‘It’s annoying when I’m not even in America.
'Playing for Fareham, they’ve been spot on with me, even the fans when they were allowed in they got behind me.
‘It just feels great up there - it’s disappointing, if anything I wish I could have at least played that game for them (in the FA Vase).
‘It’s all done now, I guess I can’t do anything.'
While he waits for his American Visa, Bartlett Scott remains unsure when he'll be able to join his new Pittsburgh team-mates.
The Riverhounds begin preparations for the upcoming season next month before the USL Championship restarts in May.
Bartlett-Scott added: The biggest problem I think is going to be the first year, especially where I’m going out late - everyone is going to have a bit of a headstart.
‘I’ve got a lot of work to do, it’ll be intense, but I think once you’re in that environment everyday all you can do is try hard.
‘I know the manager said he likes hard workers so that’s what I’ve got to do.
‘I just want to get over there and get started. There’s only so much training you can do, I just want to get over there and impress.'
The Riverhounds are one of eight clubs taking part in the USL Eastern Conference, along with Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Hartford Athletic, Loudown, Miami FC, New York Red Bulls 2nds and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Miami’s head coach is Paul Dalglish, son of Liverpool legend Kenny.
The Riverhounds won the Eastern Conference title in 2019 - the last fully completed season of competition due to the pandemic - but subsequently lost in the play offs.