Eastwood’s non-league gamble pays off

Pompey keeper Simon Eastwood
Pompey keeper Simon Eastwood

TWELVE months ago Simon Eastwood quit league football in a bid to resurrect his career.

Now he’s back – and determined to make the best of his second shot at becoming a professional footballer.

It has been the riskiest of gambles which now appears to have paid off.

Eastwood joined Pompey on non-contract forms earlier this week, to feature in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup defeat at Plymouth.

That Home Park clash saw nine of Michael Appleton’s starting line-up make their Pompey debuts, including the 23-year-old keeper, who was the second-oldest player in the side.

For Eastwood, it also completed a journey which took him to non-league FC Halifax last season, having previously served Huddersfield, Bradford and Oxford.

The desire for regular football saw him drop down to establish himself as an ever-present for the Blue Square Bet North side.

After arriving at Fratton Park on trial this summer a shoulder injury picked up in Spain restricted his pre-season appearances, yet Appleton had long made up his mind to keep him.

Now the lad from Halifax is seeking to make his second chance in the Football League count.

He said: ‘When you have dropped out of the game you get a second wind, a buzz and how you want to be in it.

‘I was at Oxford on the bench a year ago and just wanted to play a full season when Halifax rang me up.

‘I had to think about it, after all it’s part-time football and you need to be training every day to be where you want to be.

‘It was a gamble, I had to look at it both ways but I did it. I came out of full-time football – which I didn’t really want to do – but played the full season with Halifax.

‘I played every game for them last season and we lost in the play-offs. It was first-team football and I am a local lad from Halifax, born and bred, and a year there was good experience for me.

‘First-team football is first-team football at whatever level you play at and far better than reserve football. Halifax was part-time so I did a little bit of coaching at Huddersfield Academy for a year and went in the gym to keep fit.

‘I just wanted to get back into professional football, though.

‘They knew that and wanted me to stay but it was tricky because I felt I wanted to train every day.

‘Part-time footballers train on a Tuesday and Thursday night – I don’t feel you do as much as you need to. I feel it needs to be every day.

‘I am confident in my own ability and believe in myself that I am good enough to come back and I think John (Keeley) and the gaffer feel the same.

‘Hopefully it was worked out perfectly.’

Eastwood was made skipper for that Plymouth defeat.

He can expect to keep his place against Bournemouth in League One on Saturday and he is relishing his opportunity. He added: ‘It has been good getting back into it. I was a bit rusty at the start, I think everyone was the same after a couple of months off.

‘It’s how you feel every pre-season, after a first couple of days feeling back into it you get sharp and training has been really good under John.

‘I will give it my all here and will improve as a goalkeeper.’