Ben Everson: I have loved seeing the world while playing football

Ben Everson is now living in the seventh different country that his football career has taken him to. It’s taken him from the north east where he played futsal, to the States and now to Australia with several more countries in between. He’s come a long way from home but it was a scholarship offer from West Texas A&M University which really kick-started his professional career.

“I knew a friend who was playing in the States and he recommended it so I got in contact with a company called Pass4Soccer,” says Everson going back to the start of his foreign adventure. “They were holding a few trials around the country so I attended at Newcastle and Leeds and luckily I got offered a few scholarship options and I chose to go to West Texas A&M.

“I had never been to America before and had no idea about the level or anything that I was getting myself in to. I didn’t really know how to even chose a college but I remember speaking on the phone with several coaches and the coach at West Texas A&M put me on the phone with one of their English players, who was a guy called Tommy Nutter, who ended up being one of my really good mates and he convinced me to come.”

He made an instant impact his new college side, scoring 14 goals in his debut season with the West Texas A&M Buffaloes side and he was named Freshman of the Year by his league. Having previously only played non-league football and for his college and university back in the UK, Everson was benefiting from the increased levels of professionalism that a US soccer scholarship can offer.

“Playing in the college league was an amazing experience,” he says. “It was my first time being away from home and playing outside of England. This was the opportunity that really started everything in terms of my football career.

“Playing in the college league is a great way to develop as a player with how professional everything was with the training and gym work being so serious.”

The forward’s college career continued to go from strength to strength and although he admits studying for his degree alongside playing was not particularly enjoyable, it certainly seems like prioritising his football paid off as he went on to be awarded several more accolades as he fired an impressive 47 goals over his next three seasons with West Texas.

Everson with two defenders for company in Iceland

During his time at college, the north-east native also played club football for various USL Premier Development League sides in the fourth-tier of football in the States and hoped this experience alongside his excellent college statistics would lead to a professional deal in his adopted home but a contract proved to be elusive.

“My college career went great and I was hoping that would allow me the opportunity to sign professionally in America,” he says. “I had several trials but being a foreigner made things almost impossible.

“I went to two MLS teams, San Jose Earthquakes and Kansas City and both of them liked me but told me that they would not offer me a contact as they had a limited amount of spots available for foreigners [per league rules].

“As for USL teams, I went to Minnesota and San Antonio and both told me the same thing as MLS teams, that they would only have signed me if I was a homegrown player.

“It was really frustrating to hear that and I was sure I was good enough to play at that level at that point but it just didn’t work out.”

It was back to the drawing board for Everson who continued on in the States to start his Masters degree and take up a coaching position. Even a trial he had for a side in Israel did not work out due to an injury he picked up on his first day. However, an opportunity to play in Europe would soon arise once again.

“During my time at college, my coach asked me to recommend some players so I got him to sign two other guys from Middlesbrough, Dom and Seb Furness and a year later their youngest brother Theo got released by Middlesbrough and joined us in Texas.

“Theo had dropped out of university and returned to Europe to play in Belgium and then Iceland. He had done really well in his first half season in Iceland and gained promotion [to the second tier] with a team called Tindastóll.

“His coach asked him if he knew of any other players, he recommended his two brothers along with me. The coach agreed to sign us all on Theo’s recommendation and after watching some of our videos.”

This is where Everson received his first taste of professional football in Europe and having waited long enough for his opportunity, he carried his impressive goal scoring form over from the States to score seven in his first ten appearances for Tindastóll in the second tier of Icelandic football.

“This was an amazing time in my career. My first team in Europe and to be doing it with some of my best mates who I had been living Texas with for the previous few years was great. The team had really low expectations for the season but halfway through we were fourth and I was top scorer in the league.”

Everson’s fast start to the season didn’t go unnoticed and he was soon signed by top flight side Breidablik but admits that his few months with his first club in Iceland will always rank highly in his career.

Everson in action in Thailand

“Playing for Tindastóll has definitely been the most enjoyable time in my football career. The club was great in every way with really great people that myself and the Furness guys will always be grateful to for giving us that first opportunity. We often talk about the memories of that first season in Iceland.”

After his first season in Iceland, Everson returned to the UK, initially joining League Two side York City before having a loan spell with National League side Gateshead. A return to Iceland then followed which was again another prolific spell as he hit ten goals in 20 games. Then came one of the more interesting moves of the forward’s career.

“AFC was a very unique club and arriving there I was aware of the huge ambition of the club,” he says of his arrival at Swedish club AFC United in 2014.

“I arrived for pre-season early January and at that point the club only had about three or four players signed as they had changed their name and basically stated again as a new club that year.

“The new manager was a guy called Özcan Melkemichel. He had a big reputation as he had previously got a team [Syrianska] promoted from the fourth division to the top division so he brought in lots of quality players, and along with the backing of the Russian owner, we had a really strong team. We had about 14 foreigners so our squad started the season expecting to win the league.”

AFC United, now known as AFC Eskilstuna, did win the third tier that year under the guidance of Melkemichel but Everson was unable to have the influence he would have liked on their title winning campaign, despite making ten appearances.

“I really enjoyed playing for AFC and also living in Stockholm was great but I got a sports hernia and couldn’t play for the whole second half of the season so that was really frustrating not to have been able to play as much as I would have liked.”

After leaving Sweden, the West Texas graduate returned to Iceland to play for KA before having a spell in New Zealand with Hawke’s Bay Untied. He also spent time playing in Thailand and is now playing in Australia for third-tier club Dandenong City where he has recently won the league and finished the season as third-top scorer with 15 goals in 28 matches. Having played in so many different countries, the 31-year-old now appreciates which country suits him best and it reflects his upbringing playing futsal back in the UK.

“I really like the Scandinavian style of play,” he says. “They really appreciate technical ability and creativity, it’s the same in Thailand. That’s a great place to play as an attacking player but the football there is definitely a lot less structured than in Europe.

“England is probably the country that suits me the least. In League Two or the National League, there were so many quality players but during the games it was difficult to be creative as the football was generally more about aggression and ‘winning the battle’ more than footballing ability.”

With another goal-laden season in the bank for Everson, where does he see his future now the campaign in Australia is over?

“I am 31 now and still feeling really good physically so I don’t see my football career ending just yet, I will hopefully have 3/4 more years left.

“In terms of my future plans, I am not sure as I have learnt it’s never really smart to overthink the future with football as it has generally taken me to a new country most seasons, and I could never have planned on that happening.

“Longer term, I would love to have the opportunity to coach. With my life experiences of playing in so many countries and playing with and against players from all over the world, I have learnt a lot about football and I am very much a football geek when it comes to tactics and studying the game, so hopefully I can pursue that in the future”

I myself have certainly learnt a lot from Everson and once he does finally hang up his boots, any players who are lucky enough to play under him will surely learn everything they need to have a successful career wherever in the world it takes them.

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