Bradford City: Jake Young’s long train journey brings him back ‘home’ to West Yorkshire

WHEN JAKE YOUNG lines up in Bradford City colours for his home debut in front of a five-figure crowd at the Utilita Energy Stadium in 2022-23, he might just think back to those unglamorous train rides starting out at the crack of dawn not so long back.

Young’s football journey is a varied one, more especially for a 20-year-old.

From Sunday League football in Huddersfield with Shelley Juniors and onto Guiseley, Sheffield United, Forest Green and now City, his career stop-offs have been life-enhancing thus far.

As a youngster, Young’s hopes of becoming a professional looked a pipe dream. As a teenager, he had excelled at tennis and took part in junior tournaments across the country; a sport that looked a better bet in truth.

On track: Jake Young’s journey from Sunday League football and early-morning train rides to joining Bradford City has been a varied one. (Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA)

College ultimately beckoned, but then his life changed after Guiseley called. He is the first to admit he got lucky.

Huddersfield-born forward Young, who joined City last month on an initial three-year deal from Forest Green, recalls: “I just played Sunday League with my friends until I was 15 or 16 and I was never really in any academies when I was younger and just played with my mates.

“Then, it was time to go to college and I enrolled in Huddersfield New College and the day before I started, I got a call from Guiseley asking if I wanted to have a scholarship alongside being at college and training every day and playing football.

“There wasn’t much in it and I’d have been better off education-wise going to Huddersfield. I’d have got my A-levels and BTEC.

Forest Green Rovers' Jake Young celebrates scoring against Bradford last season, the side he has now joined (Picture: PA)

“But the simple fact that I was going to be playing football every day for two years meant I was going to do that.

“Every boy dreams of being a footballer, I was no different. I was probably naive thinking I could do it, looking back. It was an unrealistic thing and I probably should have focused a bit more on my schoolwork and gone through that route. Thankfully I didn’t and I got lucky.

“It was not a contract (at Guiseley) to get paid and I was waking up a five or six in the morning to get the train over to Guiseley from Huddersfield.

“But in my second year, I grew and things came together and I had five or six Championship and Premier League clubs looking to sign me and offering me trials and contracts. It was crazy really.”

Jake Young is coming back home to West Yorkshire (Picture: PA)

Another event helped change the life of Young, who had been intending to study sports media until Guiseley intervened.

Timing is everything and after scoring six goals in an FA Youth Cup tie against Ossett United in 2018-19, it secured him a trial with the Blades and he earned a full-time move in January 2019.

Young scored with his first touch in an under-23s game at Birmingham, but his time in Sheffield ultimately provided him with a grounding of what was to come at first-team level down the line at next club Forest Green, who he joined in July 2020.

Still a teenager, he scored eight goals in his first season with Rovers, which saw them reach the play-offs. Opportunities were more limited last term, but Young still got a League Two title winners’ medal to show for it at the New Lawn.

Young professed to feeling a touch unfulfilled. But for the third time in his journey, fates were kind to him. The club who he and his representatives said he would ideally like to join in City did come calling.

The striker has netted on his two previous visits to City with Forest Green. He dearly hopes it is a sign of things to come in the claret and amber where he will be aiming to impress a family hero.

Young added: “When I was younger, I went to a few (Huddersfield) Town and (Bradford) City games. My family were Manchester United fans, but don’t say that too loudly.”

In linking up with Hughes, he continued: “It is the first question that people ask: ‘What is he like?’ I can’t hide from it, he’s a big name when you look at the managers in this league.

“He has achieved a lot in his playing and management career. All I can do is just try and learn from him and I am really excited about that.

“At Forest Green, we got in the play-offs in the first year and probably underachieved from where we’d been in the majority of the year.

“Coming to last season, we all knew what we wanted to achieve and that’s probably the same here from the feeling I have got through everyone at the club so far.

“Everyone knows what we want and everyone is pulling in the same direction and I have got a great feeling from it and hopefully we can make something good happen.

“Playing down south (at Forest Green), coming to Bradford was a local game and I had a lot asking for tickets as I am sure that there will be now.

“It was a good game to get my family there and I got the goals and they were all pleased. Hopefully, I will have more moments like that in a Bradford shirt.”