Title-winning Burgess Hill cricketer Martyn Box makes professional debut for Barnet FC
You may know Martyn Box as part of Burgess Hill cricket club's Division 3 East title-winning team but the ex-Burgess Hill Academy pupil recently made his debut for National League Premier side Barnet.
The 16-year-old came on in the dying embers of the Bees 1-0 home league win against Maidenhead United on 8 September and impressed for the London side as he forced a corner in the final few minutes.
The young left back, who sites Everton and ex-England defender Leighton Baines as a player he enjoys watching, was absolutely delighted to make his debut for Barnet after a relatively short time at the club.
He said: "(I'm) very pleased to make my first team debut at such a young age and after only being at the club for around nine months. I’m happy to have come in and proven myself to all the staff and players at the club."
Box is a supporter of Brighton & Hove Albion and spent six years at the Seagulls' academy before being released. Whilst at the East Sussex outfit, Box suffered a serious knee injury at just 13-years-old which he says could have cost him his career.
The defender recovered from the injury but during his lengthy lay off he began to have his doubts about realising his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
Box has thanked his former physio at Brighton as well as his teachers and school friend's parents for their support during this time, and was doubly motivated by an off hand comment from one of his classmates.
He added: "When I was 13 I suffered a very bad knee injury which could have cost my career. I was out for nearly a year but with the help from the Brighton physio I was able to recover very well from that injury and come back stronger.
"During that time things got hard and it made me think of the bigger picture in life. What if football wasn’t for me? It was only because of my school mates parents and teachers that I managed to push through that time.
"There is one comment that I will remember for the rest of my life and it’s something I use to remotivate myself when injuries happen.
"Someone at school said 'Martyn, I don’t think you're going to be as good at football when you come back from injury' and this really motivated me to come back stronger and strive for more."
Box was part of the Burgess Hill cricket team that gained promotion to Division 2 of the Sussex Cricket League in the summer and says his love of cricket has helped him unwind off the football pitch.
He said: "Cricket is a sport I really enjoy playing and it’s not just the physical side I like but also the social side. I’ve made a lot of friends through the cricket club and the club will always be with me.
"When you're playing football everyday it can become repetitive but having another sport outside of football takes my mind off it and helps me relax."
After making his league debut at such a young age, Box paid tribute to all the people who have helped get him to where he is now.
Box added: "My mum has driven up and down the country for many of years, and I can’t think of a game that she hasn’t watched.
"My girlfriend and I have been going out for just over a year, and she has stuck by me through everything and supported me. She has travelled up and down the country to watch me, the same with her family.
"They have all been so supportive and, even though sometimes they give me stick, they are always asking how I’m doing and making sure I’m alright.
"Barnet as a club have been amazing, one of the friendliest clubs around. They were very welcoming when I first joined and I would like to thank them for the opportunities and support.
"I was quite close with some of the staff at Brighton and I don’t think they have been given enough credit for the help they offered me during my time there."