Charlie Scott hit rock bottom after Man Utd release – now he’s rebuilt his career in Asia

It was late 2019 when Charlie Scott last met up with his old pal Marcus Rashford for a catch-up over a game of pool.

Over the past few years the pair have kept in regular contact and Scott hopes to be able to get back to England for the first time in two years to meet up again later this summer.

Plenty has happened since the pair last saw each other.

Rashford has experienced triumph and heartache on England’s journey to the Euro 2020 final and became a national hero with his off-field work.

But Scott will also have his own stories to tell from his less well-documented but equally engrossing journey.

Marcus Rashford (top left) and Charlie Scott (next to him) grew up together at Man Utd and keep in touch


John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

“We tend to speak on social media,” Scott says. “But we went out for a game of pool before I left just to catch-up and see each other again.

“I’ve known him since he was six, he’s probably my best mate in football, so it’ll be good when we get the chance to catch-up again.

“I just love seeing how well he’s doing on and off the pitch, because he’s such a nice guy.”

The last time Scott and Rashford met in person, the former was working on a building site and playing part-time in the eighth tier of English football for his local side.

Less than two years earlier, he had been a professional at Manchester United with Rashford, training alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“I started working with my dad eventually,” he recalls. “Labouring on building sites.

Scott was a professional at Man Utd until being released in 2017


Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Scott would be involved in first-team training on occasions and rubbing shoulders with superstars


Matthew Ashton – AMA/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images)

“But I didn’t give up on football. I used to get up at 5am, an hour before we left for work, and just do a 5km run every morning before going to work.

“Trying to motivate yourself to do that then go to work on a construction site was difficult.

“It sounds crazy, but less than two years before I was a professional footballer for Manchester United, training with the likes of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.

“Then suddenly I was waking up at 5am, going to work on a building site and just playing for my local team at the weekend.”

Scott and Rashford’s journey’s were intertwined as kids.

Born less than two months apart, they both joined United at the same time, aged seven.

From there, they were the only members of their original intake to last all the way until penning professional terms.

“From the first day at the academy to when we made it to the reserves, me and Marcus were the only two who had been there since that first day together.

“When we were younger, Under 13s and 14s, I think we went about two years unbeaten which just showed how strong we were.

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Scott (middle) and Rashford (right) spent well over a decade together at Man Utd after signing at the same time


John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)

“But everyone else came later on, people were released every year, so seeing what Marcus has achieved, it’s obviously nice to say we had all those years and had that whole journey together.”

But whilst Rashford made his fairytale first-team breakthrough, Scott was released at the end of the 2017 season.

In hindsight, he feels slightly fortunate to have stuck around for that long having always felt he was on the cusp of being released whilst Rashford was earmarked as a superstar from an early age.

“There’s not many people that can say they spent 14 years at a club like United, so I am proud of that to be fair,” he says.

“When we got to about 14 or 15, I always used to be at the bottom of the group. When it came to whether they were going to keep you on or not, I’d always be a couple of weeks later than when everyone else was told.

“Obviously the coaches were still deciding or weren’t quite sure, so I’d be waiting an extra two weeks to see if I was staying on.

“But I got offered my two-year scholarship, then a pro contract and another year as a pro. It’s mad to tell people you were a professional footballer at the biggest club in the world.”

Upon leaving the club after 14 years, Scott expected he would have few problems continuing his career elsewhere.

Instead, trials at a host of different clubs failed to deliver his next opportunity.

Sheffield United, Forest Green, Scunthorpe, Crewe Alexandra, Carlisle, Salford, Altrincham, Chester and others all turned him down, as did clubs overseas.

“I spent all my youth career at United so that’s all I ever knew really, from the age of six to when I was released at 20,” he says.

“I didn’t really know anything else – it was just United, United, United. I knew I was getting released, I got told six months before, in December 2017.

“I went on loan in January to Hamilton Academical in the Scottish Premiership for six months. I knew what was coming, and I was glad they did tell me in a way because it meant I could go out for six months to experience what it was like at another club.

“No disrespect to any other club in the world, but it’s probably going to be a downgrade in terms of facilities from United, so it was an eye-opener that I needed.

Scott struggled to find a new club after the heartbreak of being released by Man Utd


Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

“When I didn’t get another deal at United and had to go and find another club which is a lot tougher than it sounds.

“People think, ‘oh, you’ve been at Man United for 14 years, you’re just going to walk into another club’, but that’s 100% not the case. You don’t get any special treatment just because you played at United.

“I spent about a year trialling with other clubs, I even went to a club in the Danish league and America, I had a trial with LA Galaxy. And they all said no.

“That just goes to show it doesn’t matter where you spent your youth career, you’re not just going to walk into another club.

“And it was probably down to me, in a way. I probably had that mindset of, ‘oh, I’ve been at United this many years, I can just go and walk in anywhere’.”

It was at that stage that Scott started to struggle with his mental health.

Rashford was amongst those regularly checking in to offer support as Scott withdrew socially and found himself at rock bottom.

Faced with the reality of the situation, he started to look at a normal life of work whilst playing part-time down the road from his childhood home.

Scott ended up playing for his local team before an unlikely move to Hong Kong


Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

“Obviously it was an eye-opener, and after so many ’no’s’ you just feel deflated,” he recalls. “That’s when I started to struggle mentally, bad thoughts…

“After that I just decided to go and play local football, joined Kidsgrove Athletic who are a local club near me. Then I played a bit for Newcastle Town, just on my doorstep, in the same league.

“I could literally just walk out of my house, down the road and I’d be there. It was convenient at the time when I just wanted to keep playing.

“Playing non-league, it was around two years I was out of work and not earning any money. It gets to the point where you have to think about how you’re going to afford life.”

Whilst Scott struggled to cope with being chewed up and spat out by the sport he loved, his best friend in the game, Rashford, thrived at Old Trafford.

It would have been understandable to have a tinge of jealousy, but such is their friendship and history that all he felt was pride.

“When he got into the first team, I was buzzing for him,” he says. “I remember when he first made his debut and scored the two goals, it was amazing.

“It’s still the same now, I still can’t believe what he’s done. I knew he was going to make it, but never realised how big he was going to be.

“There’s no jealousy, I’m just buzzing for him.”

Scott’s perseverance also paid off eventually, and just as England emerged from its first national lockdown, he found a break from an unlikely source.

An agent, Kevin Scott, knew Charlie from his time playing against his son, Kyle, when he was a member of the same academy age group at Chelsea.

He also grew up around Stoke-on-Trent and got in touch to discuss the possibility of a move to Hong Kong.

Scott joined Happy Valley just after the coronavirus pandemic hit


Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

After three years of hell following his release from United, he eventually packed up and headed to Asia for a fresh start on and off the pitch.

“I went over to Hong Kong, and as soon as I heard about it I just knew it was probably the best thing for me to do,” he explains.

“Just go out there, get a fresh start, start from scratch. As soon as they were interested it was a no-brainer.

“Me and my family didn’t even have to sit down and speak about it really. It might have felt like a big risk to some people, but for me it was just the chance I needed to kick-start my career again in football.”

When Scott arrived at Happy Valley FC, a team in the Hong Kong First Division, he struggled to adjust to the heat on the pitch but instantly found himself at home.

“I love it, to be fair,” he says. “This was the first time I’d ever been to Asia, so I didn’t know what to expect but since the day I’ve been here I’ve loved it.

“Even away from football, the lifestyle is unreal. I was a bit worried about the language, but everywhere is pretty much in English as well as it’s like the second language.

“The weather is amazing. Playing football, it’s horrible because it’s like 30 or 40 degrees every time you step onto the pitch, that took a bit of time to get used to.

“But once you finish playing it’s great to have the sun shining, you can get to the beach, there’s a lot of fun things to do.

“On the pitch it’s been going great as well, so I’m enjoying it a lot out here.”

Scott enjoyed a dream first season and won Players’ Player of the Year for the whole league


Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Financial problems at the club, before they self-relegated at the end of the season, meant it was a rocky ride at times.

But it was nothing compared to the tribulations Scott faced in England and he rode it out.

“That was tough, being in a new country without any pay,” he admits. “But I just knew, money aside, this was probably my best opportunity to get my name out there again.”

He ended the season with recognition from his peers as the league’s top player as reward for his hard work.

“That was tough, being in a new country without any pay,” he admits. “But I just knew, money aside, this was probably my best opportunity to get my name out there again.”

“I was basically playing for free for six months, but just got my head down, kept working on the pitch and won Players’ Player of the Year for the league and got voted into the Team of the Season in my first year over here.

“That was unreal to be honest. I never expected to be doing that in my first year back in professional football.”

A few weeks later, he was signed by Kitchee, the defending champions and winners of the league title five times in the last seven seasons.

He joined Kitchee, Hong Kong’s top club, before this season and is still loving life in Asia


Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

“You’re only allowed five foreign players in Hong Kong,” he explains. “So it’s quite difficult to get one of those spots, especially for Kitchee who are the best team in Hong Kong.

“They win it pretty much every year and play in the Asian Champions League, so I was quite mind-blown when they contacted me after the rollercoaster of the last few years. Again, it was a no brainer.

“I joined Kitchee in August last year and signed a two-year contract there, so I just hope I can keep going well out here.

Still only 24, Scott has finally found his home in Hong Kong and feels like his career is just getting started.

“I feel like my career has literally started again and I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” he concludes. “I’ve got a girlfriend out here as well, so my aim is just to keep working.

“I’m still only 24, still got my whole career ahead of me. Whether it’s staying in Asia or trying to work my way back into Europe, I’m just going to keep pushing and hopefully the hard work pays off.”

The next time he flies back to the UK and meets up with Rashford for a catch-up, there is no doubt the pair will have plenty more to discuss.

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