“It was every kids’ dream to play for Manchester United and I was no different.”
Sadly a chance to represent the first team at United never came for Sam Hewson but he came incredibly close. Eleven years ago, he made the bench for United as they travelled to Rome for a Champions League group game.
“I was both nervous and excited to travel with the first team squad and also to such a big team like Roma. The atmosphere was really good when the team ran out to warm up. All the Roma fans started to boo us and they had flares blazing to. It was a crazy experience.”
Now 29, Hewson spent twelve years with United but despite being a regular for the reserve side and going out on several loan moves, a first team debut was never forthcoming. It’s something the midfielder still regrets but it did not tarnish his time under Sir Alex Ferguson too much.
“Yes I was a little disappointed not to get my chance because I thought I had done well on some of my loan spells,” he says. “My goal was always to come back and try to break through into the first team. I think getting certain injuries at the wrong times didn’t help me at all too.
“I still look back at my time with fond memories though and I really enjoyed my time there. Sir Alex is a legend and just seeing him in the hallways would make you nervous around him.”
Hewson had loan spells in the Football League with Hereford United and Bury but following his release from United in 2010, he dropped into non-league football to play for Conference side Altrincham.
After one goal in 19 appearances for the Greater Manchester-based side, the former England U19 international knew it was time for a change and when an interesting proposal came his way, he was more than happy to listen.
“I’ve always liked the thought of playing abroad and seeing how it would be different to the English leagues.
“I got a call from an agent at the time asking if I would like to come and try Iceland out and I just thought, why not? If it didn’t work out I would just use the experience and go from there.
“I moved on my own and just decided to enjoy it and see what happen next.”
Hewson joined top flight side Fram midway through their 2011 season and become an instant regular in the side. He made ten starts as he guided his side to safety and another season in the Úrvalsdeild. His transfer to the island had made a big impact.
“It was surprisingly really easy to live here in Iceland,” he recalls. “Mainly because they get taught English in schools so everyone wasn’t afraid to speak English to me and they actually like speaking English so that helped a lot.
“At first when they knew I played for United a lot of people were Interested in that because the club have a big following over here, which was good for me.”
Now seven years on, the 29-year-old is still in Iceland and the country has truly become his adopted home. He still plays in the top flight too but with Grindavik instead, after three year spells with both Fram and FH. He realised his European football dream all those years after Rome as well, playing in Europa League and Champions League qualifiers, even scoring in the latter during a game against Irish side Dundalk. That’s not to mention the two league titles, one national cup and one league cup he has also won since the move.
“I never thought I would stay this long,” he says. “I now live with my Icelandic girlfriend and we recently just had a baby boy who is two months old.
“I can understand the language pretty good but it’s so hard to speak so I’m still learning that.”
After making over 120 appearances and counting in Icelandic football, Hewson has been impressed with the style of football the country prides itself in. He says their possession based style has seen many foreign players flock to the island to play and it is a route that he would suggest to former teammates back home.
“The standard is actually really good. Most teams try to play the ball from the back and keep it on the floor and now there are more and more British lads coming over here to try it out because they have heard the standard is getting better each year.
“I would definitely recommend it because a lot of players get released from academies and struggle to find clubs and think that’s the end – but it’s not.
“Clubs over here in Iceland are always looking to get better and make the league better so there is definitely opportunities for people to come over.”
After passing on his words of wisdom, attention turns back to his own career. After so long in Iceland, can he see himself playing anywhere else? The answer is a bit of both.
“I’m just enjoying my football at the moment and have only recently signed for a new club here in Iceland,” he says. “I’m enjoying it here and playing pretty well. I would like to try play abroad in a different country but we will see how this season progresses for me and go from there really.”
It may not be the Stadio Olmpico but Hewson has built a very successful career for himself since move abroad.