Barry Town United’s Macauley Southam-Hales had been an unstoppable force this season, marauding up and down the right flank for Gavin Chesterfield’s title chasers, and after a superb 18 months of continuous growth and development he has bagged a move to Fleetwood Town in England’s League One.
We caught up with the 23-year-old full-back following his move to Highbury Stadium.
“I’ve grown so much in confidence during my time at Barry. I was still in that mindset of academy football when I got there, but to be fair the boys and the staff got me out of that quickly and helped me realise the changes I needed to make to cope in a men’s league every week.
“I’ve always had pace, I’ve always had a decent level of athleticism, but my biggest development has been the mental side of the game and I’m going to have to continue to grow in every way now to perform at League One level.
“The biggest thing I come out from Barry with is my confidence, really. I was short of that when I arrived, after leaving Cardiff and having to change my lifestyle. You know what you can do as a good junior player, but you almost don’t back your own ability as much sometimes, but I found happiness again at the club, I grew in confidence, changed my position to right-back, which has been huge for me, and with everyone behind me I just had so much belief and went for it, and that’s the biggest thing I take away from the club.
“I’m going to miss Barry a lot, everything to do with the club, the staff, the players. It’s a bittersweet feeling really because with the position the club are in and the bond I have with everyone there it was difficult to leave, but I had to for my own development, I think.
“I’ll miss everyone there, Jenner Park is like a second home for me now and I’ll always follow them, I’ll be there when I can, because they are all a massive part of why I’ve got here – I couldn’t have done this without them. There’s no reason why they can’t continue to push on, they can go all the way – it can be done.”
Southam Hales is one of a number of young players this season who has shown that given the opportunity in the JDWPL it can benefit them massively and lead on to big achievements in the game.
Ben Cabango and Modou Touray are other prime examples of youngsters who have come into the league and benefitted massively from the experience of first-team football, and Fleetwood’s newest signing added that he thinks their exploits will lead to more clubs taking a look at what the JDWPL has to offer.
“I think what players like Ben Cabango and Modou Touray have done in the league this season, coming on loan from Football League academies and showing what they can do, is definitely going to have a big impact on making more clubs at that level look at sending players to the JD Welsh Premier League.
“Previously I don’t think that has been the case, but I think recent years have shown with the players that have come into the league and the performances they’ve put in that this is a league which can benefit players massively, and the league is growing so quickly as well.
“I was saying to the Under-18s yesterday at Barry, academy football is great, but as soon as you get out into a club playing men’s football on a regular basis you’ll see your development speed up so much, and I wish that had happened for me at a younger age whilst I was still at Cardiff City.”
After leaving Cardiff City’s Academy at the age of 21, Southam-Hales admitted that he didn’t join the Jenner Park outfit with an eye to getting back into the Football League.
He credits the environment at the club for his development, as well as the club’s sterling form this season for helping him secure a huge move.
“I didn’t think a move back into the professional game at a Football League club would come so quickly at all, no. When I signed at Barry I put my trust in Gav and knew that he, as well as all the players and staff at the club would help me develop on and off the pitch, but I didn’t expect a move like this to come so quickly.
“Where we are in the league, how the team is performing, that has brought a lot of attention and I think that’s helped me secure a move like this, and everyone has been excellent in helping me develop and progress as a player in the last 18 months.
“I didn’t really sign for Barry with the thought of getting back into the professional game to be honest with you, I just joined to get back into football, get back to doing what I love and playing men’s football, with the mindset that if anything comes of it then that’s a big bonus, really, and luckily it has and I’m looking forward to this new challenge.”
Whilst Southam-Hales has had the opportunity his performances have warranted in securing this move to Fleetwood, he confesses that his adjusting after leaving Cardiff was a challenge but that the transition has helped him massively.
“I was 21 when I left Cardiff so it took some adjusting to step away from that environment, and then to go back into fulltime work and playing for Barry part-time – that was a big transition in terms of my lifestyle, but in terms of football the change from academy games at Cardiff to the men’s game at Barry has helped me massively.
“Academy football is mainly about technical development, and senior football just opens you up to another side of the game where it’s physical week in, week out, you’re getting minutes, you’re getting good moments and you’re getting shouted at occasionally too, but that step has been key to my development.
“Academy football is not results based, generally, and people’s jobs aren’t on the line if you aren’t performing up to standard, and the biggest step was probably understanding that it wasn’t about how I performed as an individual and how I was developing, but instead the focus was picking up three points, fighting for your goals in a dog-eat-dog league.”
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