Charlie Hunter, son of Chairman Danny Hunter, began in the BW PASE academy at Boreham Wood, and was once the youngest player to play in the Conference South, at just 17-years-old.
Seven-years, and a lot of hard work later, Hunter has been to America and back on a footballing scholarship, and is another of the hundreds of examples of successful former PASE players.
Hunter began to make first team appearances in his second year at the club; making his debut in the club’s first ever match in the Conference South, as a second half substitute against Weston-Super-Mare.
“That match taught us the harsh realities of the League,” Hunter admitted. “We were not used to that sort of travelling at the time, and we went down to Weston and I believe we lost two, or three nil, I had come on as a substitute.
“After the game, their centre-half was in our faces, telling us that we needed to go back to the Ryman League. We were bottom by Christmas, but we managed to stay up, so that was a good first year.”
“The PASE team that I was in were really successful, we were crowned National Champions across the whole of England and Wales Colleges.
“I was picked for the England College team and the England Schoolboy team, and then going into my third year I started to make a lot more appearances for the first team, in the excess of 20 starts, and I was really starting to find my feet at that level.”
The likes of Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu and Ben Goodliffe are often cited as the poster boys for PASE, but there are a series of different avenues that PASE can lead to.
Whether it is Charles Nichol, who has returned as first team analyst, or Hunter, who earnt himself a scholarship to America alongside Dan Loveday.
“I had always taken my education very seriously, I had always gotten good grades during my time at school, and I had done well enough in terms of my football,” Hunter continued.
“I was able to couple the two and was offered some really good opportunities out in America, at some really good universities that would possibly have set me up for life, education and career wise, in my chosen field.
“When I was deciding whether to go to America or not, I thought that if I was going to make it as a professional footballer, then I probably would have already been at a professional club by that point. I knew that it may be a smarter move to go out to America and continue playing football, but also continue my education at the highest level.”
The University, and sporting system in America differs greatly from the English. In America, unless you are of a serious footballing talent and have been picked up at the age of 18, then you go to college through a Scholarship.
If you are of a good enough ability, then your chosen University will pay for your education, in return for you playing soccer for them. You can be offered anything from a 1%, to a 100% Scholarship, depending on your ability. You spend four years earning your degree and then American clubs are given the opportunity to draft you into their side.
The now 24-year-old earnt himself a 100% scholarship at American University in Washington DC, a Patriot League University.
A Patriot League University is one below an Ivy League, which are the top Universities in America, similar to Cambridge and Oxford in England.
“I was lucky enough to get a 100% scholarship, which they call a full-ride. My first year in America was a very exciting time for me.
“We had a great season, I played for a team who were unbeaten in the Patriot League. Unfortunately, we lost in the Conference final, but we were the first team to go unbeaten for a whole season in our league, which was really good. I was part of a really good team, it was a great bunch of lads and the team camaraderie was really good.
“A lot of the time kids go in as a freshman – which is their first year – in a team and they don’t play, they may just get some time off the bench, but I was sort of a mainstay in the team.
“I scored and set up some vital goals, I really enjoyed myself. I would say my first year was my most enjoyable, which was when DC United asked me to play for their Under-23 side throughout the summer. That would probably be my highlight, just the whole of my first year. Going out to America, being part of a really tiny group, and being successful on a footballing front.”
Hunter has just a year remaining at University in America, and while he doesn’t know where he will end up, he says that it is a very exciting place to be in.
“To put it into perspective, the film Wolf of Wall Street is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, and he actually got a Finance Degree from America Universities. Now, I am not saying I am going to be a Jordan Belfort, but, that is the sort of candidates that do go to that University.
“I am going into my senior year now and I will be doing a lot of classes that concentrate primarily on finance, moving away from general business and accounting. So, I will be focusing more on the parts of the degree that I am interested in.
“I have had a few enquiries about whether I would be interested in staying out in America and working out there, so there is the possibility of remaining there and working in DC, or somewhere else in America, possibly New York.
“But, there is also the opportunity of coming back to England and working in London, so, right now I couldn’t say ’this is where I am going to be and this is what I am going to do,’ because there are a lot of options that I am going to have to go over and think about.”
Hunter has spent the past few months back at Boreham Wood, running the Community department. The 24-year-old recently masterminded the hugely Successful Youth Tournaments.
On being back at the club, he commented: “During my return from America I have been helping to run the department; organising lots of community sessions that we do here, running plenty of community events and tidying things up on that end.
“There is a lot of work that goes into the community department behind the scenes, especially if you want the events that you put on to be of a high level, which I believe we achieve.”
Charlie Hunter is yet another model for the PASE academy, living proof that with attitude, discipline and desire, anything is possible after PASE.
On the impact that PASE had on him, the former Boreham Wood midfielder said: “I wouldn’t say that I am a poster boy for PASE, but I do see myself as someone who has taken their opportunity in the Academy and used it to their advantage.
“There may be other people who are better advertisements for the academy, Simeon Akinola, for example, who I played in the same team with. Simeon started off at the lowest level of the academy, and within a year, he was playing at the highest level, he won the National Title, then moved into non-league.
“Simeon played at Harrow Borough, and Braintree, had interest from Forest Green, and is now playing Professionally in the Football League with Barnet.
“I feel that I am good example of the educational benefits that the PASE academy can offer, I got a great education, went out to America and I have some amazing life experiences.
“Yes there are other people who are better poster boys for the PASE academy, but I believe that it shows that there are different avenues to go down if you do join the PASE Academy.”