After enduring a nightmare 12 months in which he barely played a competitive game, Sam Tattum might have been forgiven for thinking luck wasn’t smiling on his attempts to make his mark at City.
The defender signed a two-year scholarship with the club in July 2013, but a succession of injuries limited his time on the pitch and he was forced to watch from the sidelines as his teammates lifted the u18 North Division title last term.
However, rather than worrying about broken mirrors, single magpies or the number 13, the Worsley-born youngster has taken control of his own destiny. Thanks to a crucial blend of work ethic and natural talent, Sam has turned the proverbial tables and is enjoying some of his best form yet.
Speaking of his 2014/15 campaign, the full back smiled: “It’s been the complete opposite to last season. I’ve played nearly every league game – I’ve only missed one or two.
“In the summer I did a lot of work to make sure I was ready and that set me up on a good path. Physically, I felt the best I had felt in a long time and I was playing a lot quicker.
“It has been a different challenge in playing every week because you need to focus on keeping a consistent level which can be difficult because it’s natural to be up and down. But it’s just about preparing for the next game and the next game and the next – forgetting the bad games and preparing for what’s to come. You have to be switched on for every single one.”
Tattum happily admits his fortunes have changed for the better this season, but he attributes the turnaround to hard work, a strong pre-season and playing with a smile on his face rather than any reliance on four leaf clovers or lucky shinpads.
He added: “I do feel that I’ve been luckier this year, and last season silly little things seemed to be costing me time on the pitch.
“But this year things seem to be going well, and when you’re in a good mood and enjoying your football I think that’s when things do go well for you. I’d have bitten your hand off for this last year!”
The 18-year-old finally knew he had put his 2013/14 nightmare firmly in the rearview mirror when he was offered a first professional contract with City.
Nurtured in the Academy since the age of 11, he revealed the news produced a cacophony of different emotions – including frustration at being unable to share the news every young footballer dreams of hearing.
Reflected Tattum: “Relief is a word I would use, but also complete joy. I probably wouldn’t have put myself in that situation at some points last year, but that’s been the end target for years and I’ve achieved it.
“In football to achieve your targets is a great thing, when you get there after all the work you’ve put in and the sacrifices, it makes it all worth it. So then it becomes what can I do next?
“When I heard, I phoned four people but nobody answered! I phoned my Mum, Dad, my brother and my sister. I didn’t expect my sister to answer as she was at school anyway, but I just wanted to shout it down the phone to somebody!
“I didn’t get any answers so ended up leaving my Dad a garbled voicemail mumbling on. It was quite funny really – I bet any other day they’d have answered but that one time they were all busy.”
In addition to clocking up the minutes this season, the defender has seized the extra responsibilities of wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper Tosin Adarabioyo.
One of the senior members of a very young u18s squad this campaign, Tattum believes the honour of captaining the side has helped develop his leadership and organisational skills on the field – and to get chatting.
However, with he is keen to point out there is a lot more to come.
“I have been given the target from all the coaches to talk more, and I think as one of the older players in the team you need to influence the younger lads and be a big personality on the pitch,” explained Sam.
“There are times when I have done it well and times I could have done better, but I think I have been a bigger presence on the pitch.
“Hopefully I can captain the rest of the league fixtures, take that experience and help the team go as far as I can in the rest of the season. I really want to finish the season strongly and keep developing myself so when I go up to the EDS next year I am as good as I can be and competing for a place.”