'To hell and back': Wayne Rooney, England and Jamie Young
EXCLUSIVE | Brisbane Roar's Jamie Young was on the radar of the England national team long before he became a star in the Hyundai A-League.
Young's story started in Brisbane at the turn of the new millennium.
When he was a teenager, he was part of the well-respected Queensland Academy of Sport program under coach Gary Phillips.
The goalkeeper picked up an agent at the time called Andy Bernal, a former Caltex Socceroos defender who'd played at Reading in England (and later on, in a colourful career, on security detail for the Beckhams during their time in Madrid).
"Andy was very charismatic and had a flair for the wild side" recalled Young with a laugh in an exclusive chat with www.a-league.com.au.
"But he did more for me than a lot of other agents. And he got me a trial at Reading for eight weeks in 2001."
Young, then 16, was offered a scholarship opportunity with the Royals (a club based west of London).
So he dropped out of school in Year 11, packed his bags to see, in his words, "what this football job is all about".
At Reading, after a few months finding his feet, Young soon made an impact in the youth team.
"I went from struggling in my first six months at Reading to keeping six clean sheets in a row.
"And all of a sudden, Ray Clemence the England coaching keeper for the senior national team, he's at my game and next thing I know I'm at an England U/17 camp."
England soon realised this goalkeeper had potential. And he was asked to play for the Three Lions.
"At the time Australia hadn't really gotten in contact so I thought it was a great opportunity in that sense.
"I see the world through different eyes now. I might not have made that same decision at this age  but at that time I made the decision.
"And the people I played with were fantastic.
"My first England camp, Wayne Rooney was there. Tom Huddlestone, Bradley Wright-Phillips, James Milner, Gary Cahill.
"Many of the players at those camps were from big clubs like Manchester United and I was probably at the lowest league club, coming from Reading.
"It was fantastic being in that environment and being in each camp. I have great memories."
Though coming from Brisbane just a year or so earlier, it must have been a shock for the likes of Rooney and co. that their national team keeper had an Aussie accent.
"Yeah, for sure there was a bit of banter about it," Young says with a laugh. "It was one of those crazy things. These were players who went on to win Champions Leagues and World Cups.
"It was quite an experience how I ended up there, but obviously a bit of banter at the time."
The Rooney link doesn't end there.
In 2003, Young travelled from Reading to Upton Park in November to see the Caltex Socceroos humble England's national team 3-1 in a friendly.
With David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and Rio Ferdinand, England put out a strong line up in the first half but were outclassed by the emerging golden generation of Aussies.
Down 2-0 at the break courtesy of goals to Tony Popovic and Harry Kewell, and with the fans' boos ringing in their ears, England coach Sven Goran-Eriksson brought on England's best younger players, including Rooney, to try to rescue the situation.
Young was there watching it all unfold.
Little did he know that John Aloisi, who got an assist for the third goal scored by Brett Emerton, would later be his manager at Brisbane Roar.
"I looked up to the likes of Viduka and Kewell, and to meet those guys was incredible.
"And I actually went up to the England bench, as I knew Ray Clemence, and he was checking if I had an Aussie shirt on!
"There was the one side of me that really enjoyed the win for Australia – even though I was representing England at the time."
At the time, then Socceroos coach Frank Farina was alerted to the fact an Aussie kid was now in the England youth team set up.
"Nothing ever really came of it. And I was probably not ready at the time for that level, but I look back on my career and have absolutely no regrets.
"It was a great journey."
Young subsequently made one substitute appearance for Reading's first team, coming on in the 56th minute for Marcus Hahnemann in a goalless draw with Stoke at Madejski Stadium in March 2004.
"Reading is such a family oriented club. A wonderful club developing academy graduates too. And they've sold on players for a lot of money who've come through.
"I still talk to people at Reading to this day. It still resonates with me, the club," says Young.
Former Adelaide United striker Lloyd Owusu was also at the Royals around the time of Young's only senior appearance.
Young spent 13 years in England at a variety of clubs – hence the English accent – before returning to Brisbane to sign with Roar in 2014.
"If I'm being honest, I lacked the resilience I have now," he says when looking back on his career in the UK.
Ironically, as Young was leaving Reading, another Aussie keeper, Caltex Socceroo Adam Federici, arrived and went on to be a Royals favourite before making his way into the English Premier League.
"What makes me resilient these days is I've played on rainy, cold Tuesday nights when I've played in front of a man and a dog.
"And no-one's watching, yet your career is on the line in those games.
"I've been to hell and back during those times.
"I should've enjoyed it a lot more. But it makes you much more resilient. When I see younger people these days there seems a lack of resilience.
"I've been through that. I've lived 13 years of tough years. It's a benefit for me now."
Young is a fascinating footballer. He's currently studying a PhD which will mean he'll be Dr Jamie Young when he graduates.
In England, Young was offered a place studying Human Genetic Research at Manchester Metropolitan.
Though he declined in order to come home and sign with Brisbane in 2014.
And after yet another fabulous performance last week against the Jets, this intriguing footballer with the amazing backstory is set to play this Saturday night for Roar against Adelaide United at Suncorp.