Trial by email offered unlikely second chance for Pompey's Donohue

It took a speculative email to deliver Dion Donohue to football once again.

Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 1:45 pm
Updated Friday, 31st August 2018, 5:02 pm
Dion Donohue was released by Everton as a youngster

And the Welshman will forever be indebted to girlfriend Nadine for supplying the crucial shove.

A dispirited Donohue had drifted out of football following the devastation of his release from Everton's academy.

Then '“ in the summer of 2014 '“ he relocated to Birmingham to accompany his paramedic partner, who had earned a new job in England's second city.

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Dion Donohue was released by Everton as a youngster

Unbeknown to the versatile left-footer, Nadine had fired off an email to local club Sutton Coldfield Town asking for a trial on his behalf.

After being informed of the Northern Premier League division one south club's positive response, Donohue had to buy a pair of Copa Mundial boots from Sports Direct to be able to feature.

Sure enough, he was taken on and, upon the season's culmination, earned an initial trial at Chesterfield to open the Football League door.

The 24-year-old established himself as Pompey's left-back last season '“ racking up 36 appearances.

Yet four years ago he didn't even own a pair of football boots.

He said: '˜I was at Everton as a kid '“ only to be released when 16 and then gave up.

'˜I just didn't have any interest in getting back into football.

'˜I had been doing it my whole childhood and then got dropped and fell out of love with it.

'˜I probably didn't want the failure again '“ that was definitely it for me.

'˜I'm from Anglesey, a little-known island in North Wales.

'˜I was the only kid playing for a Premier League academy, so everyone knew who I was.

'˜And I think it was the embarrassment of not making it for them. That was hard to take.

'˜Everton had feeder clubs, so following my release there was interest from Tranmere, Wrexham and Chester.

'˜But I said no. That was it for me.

'˜Instead I worked with my uncle on a building site, just floating through life.

'˜Then my partner got a job in Birmingham as a paramedic so I went with her to support her.

'˜I didn't really want her moving on her own.

'˜It's a big city, we were aged 20 at the time, so moving away on your own is quite a big step.

'˜While there, Nadine emailed Sutton Coldfield Town behind my back.

'˜She never told me she had done it.

'˜Then one day she told me I had to buy a pair of boots as I had a trial! It all went from there.

'˜I travelled to Birmingham with no intention of playing football at all.

'˜By the end of the season I had another shot at the professional game.'

Royals boss Neil Tooth spotted Donohue's potential during that maiden training session.

The Welshman '“ playing in a central-midfield role '“ made 37 appearances and scored once during a campaign which yielded promotion to the Northern Premier League's premier division via the play-offs.

Donohue's performances had been enough to alert Chesterfield Town, who offered him a trial in the summer of 2015 '“ despite only seeing him in action for 10 minutes after he broke a cheekbone in the match they scouted.

The Spireites boss at the time was Paul Cook.

Yet he had already departed for Fratton Park by the time Donohue arrived.

Dean Saunders replaced the Scouser at Chesterfield's helm.

Regardless, the League One side were impressed with Donohue and soon snapped him up.

He added: '˜After my release from Everton, I played for my village team as well as Caernarfon Town. That was it.

'˜When I got a trial at Chesterfield it represented a second chance '“ and I knew it was going to be my last.

'˜That was enough motivation for me to get my head down and give it everything.

'˜If it didn't work out then then fair enough.

'˜I'd give it one more go '“ and luckily it paid off.

'˜They gave me a 12-month deal in August 2015.

'˜However, I wasn't getting anywhere near the squad '“ just playing reserves.

'˜Saunders got the sack in late November and the youth-team manager, Mark Smith, took over as caretaker.

'˜He put me straight into the team and I stayed there after that.

'˜When I joined Chesterfield they had just gone to Portugal on tour.

'˜I couldn't get on the trip because I was so late signing.

'˜Instead I trained with the youth team for a week, so that is how Smith knew me.

'˜It's funny, when I left Chesterfield in August 2017, I was very close to joining Wigan '“ where Paul Cook now was.

'˜Then they signed Callum Elder on loan from Leicester City.

'˜The conversations I had with my agent were always leading towards a move to Wigan.

'˜That was looking the most likely and then it fell through.

'˜As it was so late in the window I thought I was not going to get out.

'˜Then Portsmouth came in with a bid on the Tuesday '“ although it took a second bid on the Thursday '“ and I arrived at Fratton Park, back in League One again.'

This interview with Dion Donohue featured in our Sports Mail pre-season special, which is currently out now '“ priced 80p.