As a young footballer trying to make the grade in the Essex Senior League, the idea of playing in front of 52,000 fans each week seemed a distant dream for Dwight Gayle.
The 25-year-old hotshot has come a long way from those days playing for Stansted FC.
And his dream will soon become a reality after Newcastle United signed the striker in a deal that could be worth up to £10million.
For some, the idea of dropping down a division would seem a backward step.
But former Crystal Palace frontman Gayle couldn’t contain his joy at joining Newcastle, with Rafa Benitez aiming to oversee promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
It is a remarkable rise for Walthamstow-born Gayle, who has put pen to paper on a five-year deal at St James’s Park.
Just five years ago the former Peterborough United striker was playing non-league football and despite leaving a Premier League club, Gayle is confident he won’t be out of the top flight for long.
“If you’d have told me that (I’d be signing for Newcastle) then, I’d probably have laughed and told you were a liar, but to finally be here, on the route I’ve come, is a great achievement,” said Gayle.
“I just want to crack on now, perform, and get the goals to push us back up.
“I’m ecstatic really. It’s amazing to be at a big club like this and to come from where I’ve come, is just a dream come true.
“There’s a massive fanbase and a great history here, so it’s amazing to be here.
“From Stansted I signed for Dagenham and went on loan to Bishop’s Stortford.
“I had a great season there and I loved it, thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
“The next season I joined Dagenham and started well there again.
“I pushed on to Peterborough and had a great time in the Championship, and then went on to Palace, where I’ve been for the last three years.
“Coming the route I did makes it that bit more special.
“I appreciate it that bit more. When I go back to see some mates and go back to watch my old teams, you just notice how far you’ve come, and that’s when you really cherish it that bit more,” added Gayle, who has scored 64 goals in 153 league appearances.
Gayle made his name with Peterborough in the second tier before securing a big-money move to Palace.
He slipped down the pecking order under Alan Pardew, and will now look to reignite his career on Tyneside.
Newcastle have shelled out around £25million on new recruits this week alone, with AFC Bournemouth winger Matt Ritchie joining Gayle and Belgian goalkeeper Matz Sels.
Gayle will offer pace and power up front as they bid to get out of the Championship – and he isn’t fazed at following in the footsteps of those club legends who have gone before him.
“Looking back, there’s been some extremely good forwards here, and the fans do love a good striker,” added Gayle.
“If I can follow them and be half as good as some of them, then I’ll be okay. I’m quite good at finishing, I suppose.
“I’m quite quick, and I’m going to give my all and work hard for the team, and try my best every game.
“You want to get to the 20 mark, and that’s the first stage you want to get to.
“You go into each game trying to score, but the main aim for us is just to get promoted – that’s going to be the main idea.
“It’s a massive club, and I don’t see us not being at the top of the table or there or thereabouts.
“I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can help push the team that way with my goals and my performances.”