Chesterfield have this week decided to bring in a Soccer AM goalkeeper on trial, who has had previous experience at non league level.
The shot stopper Melvin Minter has had a journey like no other to get to this point in his career, going from being a teaching assistant, to saving kicks of celebrities and TV presenters and now potentially playing for a team who are just one promotion away from the EFL.
His rise up the football ladder is has been dubbed by many as unique and his determination was rewarded in September 2020 when he signed his first ever professional contract, aged 25, at Harrogate Town, ahead of their debut season in the Football League.
He grew up in North London which he described as “a warzone at times” so it was more the case of trying to avoid getting with the wrong groups of people.
Minter joined his first football team in secondary school and was in between the sticks right at the start. He went to an all-boys school that had a heavy focus on sport and it meant he was surrounded by kids his age who had that same competitive nature.
Minter never had interest from footballing academies until very late on in his teenage years, but that didn’t stop him trying.
At 15-years-old, Minter got a trial at Oxford United, joining on an extended school boys contract and it was an opportunity for the London lad to show his skills and earn a scholarship.
Unfortunately he was unable to do enough to earn the contract and instead dropped down into non league football.
“I’ll never forget the conversation I had with a career advisor after finishing my GCSE mock exams. She told me what steps I needed to take to become a pro footballer and that was the first time I realised what was required to pursue what I wanted. Something was telling me football was always the path for me.”
Minter adds how getting rejected by Oxford was something he needed if he was going to take the next step.
“It was demoralising as it was the first time I had experienced a professional environment and trained every single day,” he explains. “I was focused on what I wanted to do and thought I had done well enough to earn a scholarship but sometimes in life, things don’t work out. It opened my eyes to the wider world,” Minter adds. “I was naive when I was younger and just thought things would come to me and I’d get another club straight away. When that didn’t happen it opened my eyes.”
Minter side for then-Conference South side Hayes and Yeading and did very good, playing for the under 18s and reserve side which earned him a call up to England’s School Boys team where he travelled to Italy for an international tournament and played against the likes of China and Romania.
With confidence boosted for Minter, he was now “solely focused” on making it as a professional, something that looked to be going to plan when Brentford then snapped him up as a third-year scholar. However, it was a unique scenario as Minter was too old to play in the youth teams and so instead played with the under 21s, a team of players who all had professional contracts.
His scholar contract came to an end and he was then released, before the then 20 year old went on to join Hendon who were in step three of non league football. It was his first experience of playing the men’s game and it was a case of play well or get dropped – calling it a “cut-throat experience”.
“It was the hardest time for me as my mentality wasn’t where it needed to be,” Minter admits. “It was a wake-up call. I needed to realise what I really wanted to do and how was I going to sustain it. At that time, I was more focused on getting there and then once I had it, I didn’t do the things which had gotten me there. I needed the mentality that I’d never want to stop working and wanting to get better.”
Minter recalled how he was in a changing room with grown men who had mortgages to pay but also an opportunity to observe and learn from his older and wiser teammates who helped him manage the highs and lows of playing men’s football.
That season, he didn’t play as much as he wanted and as he wasn’t prepared to sit on the bench, he opted to move onto Farnborough before Hanwell Town at 21.
He made a half-century of appearances at Hanwell, became a fan favourite and won supporters player of the season. Things looking good.
A season later, he moved up a division to play for Harrow Borough and that campaign saw him keep 15 clean sheets, won player of the year and supporters player of the year. That earned him a trial with Yeovil Town but once again, he failed to earn a professional contract and it was yet another setback for the keeper.
As well as playing non league, for two years Minter had been working a full-time job as a teaching assistant as he could no longer afford to live just playing football.
However, at 23, Minter gave himself one more shot at becoming a pro.
“I told myself I had three years to make it and if it doesn’t work out then I stabilise myself,” he says. “It was a big risk but at 23, I felt like I still had something to offer if I gave it my all.”
He was contacted by Rising Ballers who previously worked with the likes of Phil Foden, Callum Hudson Odoi and Bukayo Saka, and are partnered with the likes of Nike, Puma and PlayStation.
Rising Ballers was set up with the aim of highlighting promising football talent but through quality video and social media content to help them get looked at and earn a potential contract with professional clubs.
The digital platform also have their own football team and received 5,000 applications in a week, with only 20 players getting picked. One of their former players, Iliman Ndiaye, made his Premier League debut for Sheffield United just last season, showing the possibilities of making your dreams come true via an alternative route.
— Melvin Minter (@melvin__minter) June 11, 2021
Minter was picked up by Soccer AM who were after a new goalkeeper to feature on their live show, did a shoot with Glen Murray, Adebayo Akinfenwa, Tubes, Wayne Bridge and Steve Sidwell, Soccer AM then offered Minter the chance to feature on every live show.
He also got with EA Sports who asked him to get involved in video shoots playing FIFA with Anthony Joshua.
“I thought what was happening was an amazing opportunity. Meeting Anthony Joshua was a crazy experience. He was so humble and supportive. It was the same with Jimmy Bullard. He gave me a lot of love and support and he’s the same on and off camera, lots of energy and very supportive.”
At that point he was with King’s Langley, so did the morning show and then rushed to play as their number 1 in the afternoon.
King Langley’s manager had decided to not allow Minter to continue this routine. The keeper still had the aim of making it pro and knew being on Soccer AM wasn’t going to get him there. Minter was ready to give up his work with Soccer AM but thankfully for him, a change of manager at the Watford club allowed the keeper to continue his new role. “I was trying to become a professional but the cards I was being dealt weren’t working for me,” Minter says. “Soccer AM wanted me on a full-time basis and at that moment, I was thinking maybe I would become an influencer on social media, like the F2 Freestylers but a GK version. That became my plan if football wasn’t to work out.” It was now March 2020 and Minter was set on working full time with Sky until a trial with Stevenage came about and they said they would sign the keeper on a pro deal. However, this happened just weeks before the first national lockdown and when that came into effect, it ended Minter’s hopes of that deal going through. “Something changed during the summer and they didn’t go through with it,” he explains. “That left me very disheartened and I thought to myself maybe that’s my last chance gone. I had now pretty much decided to go down the route with Soccer AM and when it was set to restart in September I’d be ready to do it. There were a lot of options in the National League South but I wanted to play full time. I didn’t want to have to juggle football and Soccer AM. It was to be one or the other.”
The start of the 2020/21 season saw him gets calls from three clubs, Yeovil, Boreham Wood and Harrogate Town.
He was then on trial with Harrogate Town as cover. With Covid regulations in place, Minter had to get a negative test to train and a delay in getting his result nearly meant he missed his chance. However he managed to make it up to Yorkshire and was chosen to be Town’s new keeper.
The deal Minter signed was originally for a month and it made him more determined to have that contract extended.
In October 2020, the hard work paid off as the boss told Minter that he wanted him to stay for the remainder of the season.
“When I came for the trial, everyone was welcoming and cool. I noticed straight away the culture here that everyone is in sync in terms of being humble and hardworking. This was an environment I wanted to be part of. The first time having the name on the back of my shirt and signing that first deal were big, big moments. “Maybe a month or two prior, I never expected that to happen. I was grateful more than anything else.”
Minter was then loaned out to National League North outfit Darlington, who were happy to continue extending his stay following some impressive performances, including saving two penalties in an FA Trophy victory against AFC Telford United.
Unfortunately he was one of several players who was released this summer by Harrogate and he is now a free agent, but through some footage of his, he could be about to earn himself a deal with a National League club.
Minter came off the bench and went onto the pitch for the final 15 minutes in the Spireites’ pre-season win against Bradford City last week – making one outstanding save late on.
He didn’t make an appearance for the game against Port Vale on Saturday but was seen warming up with fellow goalkeeper Scott Loach before kick off.
There had been a strong possibility that he’ll play against Aston Villa’s under-23s on Wednesday afternoon in a behind closed doors game, but that’s been called off and attention turns to Tamworth oat the weekend, a few more looks are needed to determine whether he earns himself a contract or not.
He says on his rise: “I am living proof that hard work and belief can take you anywhere.”
Minter has aims of becoming a number one at a EFL club in the future, as well as representing Ghana’s international team.
“Goalkeepers can play until 40 years of age so I feel like I’m at the start of my career. I’ve got a lot to learn and the aim for me is to play professionally and represent my country of heritage. That, and to play as high as I can. I’ve just got to keep on working.”
With confirmation that Chesterfield bring in a Soccer AM goalkeeper on trial, fans and those that know him have checked him out and gave their reaction…
— Spireite Gazette (@SpireiteGazette) July 31, 2021
@andyhashtag1gk: Proper keeper!
@mherc7: Different class
@knwrrn: james rowe knows how to bring in quality keepers tbf
@_EthanMarsh_: Rising Ballers Ex Keeper signing for tahn 🤣
@onelonelyfiver: Come back to KL please
@KieronG__: Come home to Darlo
@RbKeepers: wow 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
@BarryTh71456958: Come to Darlo @melvin__minter
@northernshrek: @melvin__minter I reckon you should come back to darlo