Earlier this summer, former Newcastle United and Northern Ireland midfielder David McCreery was appointed as vice president of newly-formed club Al Sahel. The club based in Ajman, UAE, will compete in the third-tier of Emirati football later this year.
McCreery has already put his connections to good use securing a big first signing for the new club, former Sunderland and England youth winger Rees Greenwood.
Greenwood grew up in the academy of the Black Cats and made his Premier League debut for the club in May 2016, starting in a 2-2 draw with Watford.
Later in the year, Greenwood would line up alongside the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Holgate as he starred for England U20s.
That was followed by spells at Gateshead and north of the border with Falkirk.
But he know turns his attention to his first move abroad after securing a deal with Al-Sahel in a deal which has made big headlines in the Middle East. His new club may be starting out in the third-tier but that hasn’t stopped the transfer from being headline news on many sports news channels across the Gulf.
Now 23, the former Sunderland winger is relishing the chance to return to full-time football after a year playing for Spennymoor Town and West Auckland Town.
Greenwood spoke exclusively to English Players Abroad about the move. Thanks to McCreery Sports Management for helping setting up the interview.
English Players Abroad: What is it about the Al Sahel project that tempted you to join the club?
Rees Greenwood: What tempted me is the way the club wants to work and move forward from the get go. To have David McCreery within the ownership of the club gives me confidence as he has huge experience in his career playing in two World Cups and at Manchester United.
I’ve been told about the professionalism he wants to instill throughout the club on and off pitch and ambition they have to go up through the leagues. Only two promotions and playing against some big names in world football.
Also I’ve seen all the facilities that been secured with an impressive training ground and stadium, so what’s there not to like really.
Once I’d saw all that and heard the things they had told me I just wanted to get started straight away. It’s an huge opportunity to be training full-time and also raise my profile within a new footballing market.
EPA: What do you know about the football in the UAE and what are you expecting of the standard?
RG: I go in with no expectations. I just want to focus on myself, get myself the best I can be physically and mentally and do the best for the club to get promoted and selfishly impress other clubs higher in league.
EPA: How excited are you to get started? Have you always wanted to play abroad?
RG: Playing abroad is something I’ve always thought about and what better place to go and do so. I have visited the UAE before on holiday and it’s a beautiful country with an amazing culture and I want this to be an experience something that I will never forget.
I can’t wait to just go out there and begin my journey. I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things within a football environment on a daily basis and just go out there and show people what I can do. It’s a fresh start from me and I’m excited to go out there get my head down and let the football do the talking.
EPA: Are you expecting there to be more English players joining you at the club?
RG: I don’t control recruitment so can’t answer that but I do know the club are sourcing players globally through the vast network they have. I understand two Brazilian players have agreed terms, one a former youth national team player – but let’s see.
To me it doesnt matter where the players come from as long as we are all focused on the same goal in getting the club promoted.
Follow Al Sahel on Twitter to keep to up to date with how Rees is doing and further club transfers.