Pub football to the Premier League. Skysports.com hears Wolves midfielder David Edwards' story.
Last Updated: 12/08/09 2:00pm
Progressing from running out for the Red Lion XI on a drizzly Saturday morning to playing Premier League and international football, along with spending some quality time in the company of Megan Fox and owning a super car, is the dream of most red-blooded men.
For many, that is pure fantasy. But when last season's Championship winners Wolves host West Ham at the weekend the fixture is not just the first of a glittering campaign and a deserved reward for topping last season's second tier, it is also an indicator of a remarkably swift ascent of the football ladder for midfielder David Edwards.
The men from Molineux have inevitably been installed as relegation favourites following their return to England's pinnacle division after a five-year absence, and a fight for survival will be the priority. For one member of Mick McCarthy's squad, however, there also is a bigger picture.
Unlike many of the Premier League stars he will soon be competing against, Edwards has not had the luxury of being nurtured through a professional club's Academy by talent scouts and highly-qualified coaches. Not so long ago the 23-year-old was playing for a pub team on the recreation grounds of his native Shrewsbury as he completed his GCSEs.
The midfielder's talents were eventually recognised and his hometown club, then a struggling outfit at the bottom the Football League, came calling. Relegation to non-league was suffered before promotion and a first-team spot was earned. A seven-month spell at Luton, which came to an end as funds were required to stave of the threat of administration, followed and a career at Wolves began in January 2008.
Having experienced the reality of falling through the Football League trap door, and witnessing the financial struggles of lower division football that contrast so greatly against the riches of the Premier League, Edwards is grateful for crafting a profession the hard way. He recognises his tale of pub football is an unusual one (but surely the perfect hangover cure for any aspiring footballer?) and after signing a new three-year deal in June he is not prepared to let a place in the top flight pass by.
"It is a bit strange," he admits. "In the last year of school I wasn't even at a club. I was playing for a pub team on a Saturday and then I was picked up by Shrewsbury just before I left school. I managed to get into their first team pretty quickly, which was brilliant for me as they were my local club, and then I was there for four years before moving on to Luton.
"I was only at Luton for a short spell and then on to Wolves. It went quickly, but you can never take your foot off the gas. I am very appreciative of where I've come from and how hard you have to work to stay at this level.
"Maybe it has come as a little bit of a shock. I thought I was ready to move from Shrewsbury when the chance came. I felt like I needed a change and that came with Luton.
"But obviously with Luton's misfortunes and administration they needed to make some money and I was one of the players that they had an offer for and they accepted. To then move to such a big club as Wolves was a shock at the time, but I think I managed to cope with it quite well and I'm enjoying being here at the moment.
"When I first signed it was like a Premier League club already. The facilities, the ground, the fans and the history - everything about it is a club that should be in the Premier League."
To make matters all the more impressive, Edwards is now a fully-fledged international footballer after collecting 14 caps for the emerging, young Wales squad, which he qualifies for via his parents.
Manager John Toshack has received praise for looking to the next generation and the future does look bright, despite hopes of a place in the 2010 World Cup already lying in tatters with three matches of the qualifying campaign still to play.
Edwards, who has pulled out of Wednesday's friendly with Montenegro due to a groin strain, acknowledges his international progress has been as eye-opening as that at club level, and he is grateful for the opportunity. But he is fully aware of Wales' potential and is again not prepared to rest on his laurels as attempts to qualify for the finals of a first major tournament since 1958 continue.
"It has been so quick and phenomenal and it is all down to John Toshack. He has given me a chance and I've got 14 caps now. That is something that, when I was 16 or 17 years old, I never dreamt of," he explains.
"The manager has put a lot of emphasis on youth and that is only going to pay benefits in the future. There is a very good group of young players coming through and looking at the major tournaments, in four or eight years' time, I'm sure we are going to qualify for one soon."
But Edwards' immediate focus is on club football and conversation soon returns to Wolves.
A pre-season tour of Australia has proved beneficial after a summer break involving a trip to Dubai with his Mum and 12-year-old sister and a separate holiday to Cyprus. The priority is now on ensuring a place in the top flight is maintained.
"It is nice to be an underdog and to prove people wrong," Edwards continues. "All the boys are sure we have enough in the squad to stay up. The chance to play in the Premier League is absolutely brilliant so all the boys are working hard to try and stay. That is our main objective and it is something I definitely think we can do this season.
"All the boys are looking forward to seeing the big players, but first and foremost you have to get some points on the board.
"We wanted to be the fittest and strongest team last year, and that is what won us the Championship. It is going to be no different this season. We know we are not going to be the best footballing team in the league so we need to make sure we can work harder and get in opponents' faces. That is what will get us the points."