Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Sadiq's Dream Is Still Alive

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Sadiq's Dream Is Still Alive

Article excerpt

SALFORD City's players didn't expect a trialist who'd not kicked a ball for nine months and who'd contacted the club through their website to leave them all standing.

But in December's bleep tests observed by Paul Scholes and Phil Neville, that's what happened.

"I thought: 'Wow, this boy can run'," recalled Neville at seeing Sadiq El Fitouri. "I was even more surprised when he told us his background story. After being released by City he'd fallen out of love with football until contacting us."

Libya-born, Old Trafford-raised and a student at Stretford High School, El Fitouri played in their trophy-winning school team which reached a national final.

"His grades were slipping below As and Sadiq's father stopped him from playing football during the under-14 season," remembers one of his youth coaches. "He still came to watch during this time and his grades soon went back up again."

With school completed, he won a contract at City with his two best mates, but all three were released.

Agents tried to help the Libyan-born player but were lucky if the managers at League One and Two clubs took their calls.

After a footballing hiatus, Sadiq, 20, started training with Salford, who already had a right-back.

"Then we had a practice game, 11 v 11," says Neville. "It was absolutely freezing. Sadiq went down the wing, went past a player like Cruyff then stroked the ball into midfield. I'd been drawn to him since that bleep test but the more we watched him in training, the more I thought: 'He's a player.' .' After four times I thought: 'This lad is definitely a player.'" ."

Salford changed manager with the popular Phil Power losing his job and Neville and Scholes briefly took charge for a game against Kendal Town.

"We both said he had to play," adds Neville. "Within 35 minutes we'd both seen enough for him to show us that he was far too good for this level."

Neville thought about recommending him to Bury manager David Flitcroft, Scholes suggested Oldham - the pull of both men's roots evident. …

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