Ex-Newcastle youngster opens up about his release from boyhood club and his move to Croatia
You don't hear of many young players who move abroad when they are released by English clubs.
However, Ben Kitchen jumped at the chance to challenge himself in Croatia following his release from Newcastle United this summer.
Boyhood Newcastle fan Kitchen spent 13 years in the Magpies' youth academy but the 19-year-old wasn't without a club for long - joining third division side NK Novigrad.
While most players struggle to overcome the disappointment of being let go at a young age, Kitchen, whilst admitting initial disappointment, is determined to climb back up the footballing ladder.
In a feature with English Players Abroad, Kitchen opened up about his St James's Park departure, his move to Croatia and the comparisons between the two games.
Kitchen said: “It’s always the dream growing up and making it to play first team football for the team you grew up playing for and supporting.
“So in that sense obviously it (being released) was disappointing, but I’m happy to move on and gain experience to carry on improving as a player. I think it is what I need at this stage.”
“Obviously growing up as a Newcastle fan, I loved playing and growing as a player and person through the Newcastle academy.
"I was there from the age of six and I learned a lot from my time there on and off the pitch. I trained with the first team a handful of times last year too, which was a great experience to see what level you must try to get to."
NK Novigrad were relegated from the second tier last season but Kitchen was keen to take on the challenge as he had 'nothing to lose'.
“I got a phone call from an agent who my dad knew through when he used to play football,” he says.
“The agent asked if I’d be interested in coming abroad to play. I had a meeting with him and my dad and I were quite open minded about it and thought why not? And here I am!”
“Kurtis Russell, who I’m good friends with and played with at Newcastle, got asked if he’d be interested in coming over [to Croatia] as well and we talked between us and decided we’d have nothing to lose.
“That helped me obviously having someone to come out with. He unfortunately had to go home after a week or two of being here because of a knee injury but he’s coming back once he’s fit again so that will be good.”
The Premier League is talked up as the most exciting league in the world but Kitchen revealed one thing Croatia hates...
"It’s hard to compare (the two leagues),” he says. “I would say it’s not as quick as English football but there are some good players and teams who all try to play. They hate the long ball!”
“My ambition in football is to play to the highest level I possibly can and prove myself, whether that’s in England or abroad, I don’t mind in all honesty as long as I’m playing football.”