WHEN teenager Warren Burrell was growing up in inner city Sheffield he knew his life could have easily taken the wrong direction.
But thanks to football, personal dedication and the support of Football Unites Racism Divides coaches, midfielder Warren is now looking forward to a promising career.
The 18-year-old has just signed a professional contract with Conference side Mansfield Town and is looking to help the newly relegated club return to the Football League at the first attempt.
Warren grew up in Fir Vale and although he loved playing football, he’d never seriously considered playing for a living.
“I was drifting at school and playing for Throstles FC in my spare time,” explained Warren, who still lives in Sheffield.
“I didn’t take it seriously and things could have been very different.
“When I was a bit older I went to a youth club in Sheffield and there were some coaching sessions going on which I was encouraged to join.
“Luis Silva from Football Unites Racism Divides was leading the coaching and I went along. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.
“I knew that Luis meant business and I found out that he’d got really good links with the local league clubs like Sheffield United.
“Teams come to him looking for talent and that came across pretty quickly. He’s really well respected.”
Warren continued to attend coaching sessions and former Chile international Luis helped him improve many aspects of his game.
“Luis taught me about discipline and he’s got a way about him that lads respect. If you mess about you’re out and that’s how it is at league clubs.”
Warren joined Sheffield United’s Academy but was released after a year.
“I didn’t get a scholarship and that was hard to take but they arranged for me to go to Mansfield for a trial,” added Warren, who remains close friends with Sheffield United starlet and former England U15 Kyle Naughton.
“I spent two years at Mansfield and at the end of last season I was given a professional deal.
“I made my first team debut in the last game of the season against Dagenham and Redbridge which was great but we were relegated and so it was a day of mixed emotions really.
“I hope to break into the team this season and hope we can come straight back up.
“Billy McEwan, the gaffer, is great and I’m learning a lot. Pre-season has been hard but I like to keep myself fit so it’s not been such a big problem for me so far.”