(Salford City defender Ibou Touray celebrates his goal versus Walsall. Credit: Charlotte Tattersall – Salford City)
Salford City defender Ibou Touray has admitted he considered retiring as he reflected on his tumultuous career, as the Ammies prepare for their Leasing.com Trophy tie versus Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-21s.
The Gambian international, 24, recently surpassed 100 appearances for the club and was nominated for the North West Rising Star award, but hasn’t always had it easy, and he took the time to reflect with SalfordNow at an overcast Partington Sports Village.
Play-Off winner ✅
First goals for Salford ✅
International re-call ✅
Ibou Touray has been nominated for Rising Star 2018-19 at the North West Football Awards!
Vote for him now before voting closes later on today ?
— Salford City FC (@SalfordCityFC) October 11, 2019
“It wasn’t easy, I went from playing youth team and reserves against young lads straight into men’s football and it was completely new to me,” Touray said.
“It didn’t go as smoothly as I thought it would – going down a few leagues I thought it’d be easy, but it was definitely harder. It took me about a season and a bit to really understand what it’s all about.
“When you’re reaching that age of 20, 21 and all your mates are working and you’re going into clubs and they’re not giving you contracts and you’re not earning, you start thinking about giving it a break.
“It’s not easy, there were times when I thought ‘football’s not for me’ but I just kept my head up and working hard and now it’s paying off.”
The full-back developed in Everton’s academy but his spell on Merseyside was abruptly ended with his release in 2014, a fate that repeated itself at his two following clubs – Chester and Rhyl.
“When I left Chester, I got released in pre-season. I thought I was going to go back there and then they signed a left-back – it was towards the end of pre-season and then I didn’t have a club. A few mates were playing for Rhyl, so I joined them.
“Obviously, it was in the Welsh League, and it wasn’t a great experience. I had to drive two hours to get there for training so that’s a low point.
“It’s a lot different, you kind of think to yourself, ‘where did it go wrong?’. It happens, sometimes some things don’t work out for different reasons.”
A crucial turning point for Touray followed, with a move to Nantwich Town the catalyst in rejuvenating his career. After one season with The Dabbers, the Gambian was on the move once more with Salford lying in wait.
“I was enjoying it, playing well and I did think I was a lot better than the level I was at, so I was just waiting for the right time and the right club. I kept playing well all season and I played over 50 games, so I thought I deserved something from it.
“When the season ended, I had a few phone calls and clubs that wanted me, but when Salford came in and I saw the type of club they were, what they wanted to do and what they had in store for me, it was something I couldn’t really turn down.
“It turned out to be the right decision. I’m enjoying it a lot, but I want to keep kicking on and just getting better and better and going higher with Salford as well. We’ve got a winning mentality here so when we’re not winning, no one’s happy.”
Despite a mixed start to the campaign, with the Ammies winning two of their opening 11 fixtures, Graham Alexander’s outfit have since picked up 14 points from a possible 24.
The team has rocketed to within six points of the play-off fray and Touray believes they are capable of vying for promotion.
“Everyone’s getting more used to the league, we’ve had a good couple of months. If you’re not thinking about promotion, then there’s no point in really playing. We’ve got a lot of winners and big characters here so that’s the target really.
“I want to get up the leagues and if I could get up to the top, that’d be the dream. I don’t know where the limit is; I’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully things will go your way in the end.”
Manager Alexander, who has selected Touray for all but one of the 63 league games he’s been available for since taking over last summer, paid tribute to the left-back’s character.
“I think for a player of his age and his commitment to being a professional, anything can happen for Ibby. He’s a fantastic pro; he’s only missed one game since I’ve been here through international [duty].
“He’s resilient, trains every single day to his maximum – even indoors in a little six-a-side competition, he’s all out and his team wins because he wants to compete. He’s learning more and more about the game, certainly as a full-back and the many challenges you face.
“When a player is as fit as he possibly can be, he understands what’s required from him in the team and he goes out and commits every day, anything can happen for him in a positive way.
The Scotsman went as far to confess that he wasn’t aware of Touray when he arrived at the Peninsula Stadium but admitted that the Gambian now has no ceiling to his potential.
“Certainly with Ibby, I think he’s made great strides – I didn’t know him when I came into the club – but I’ve seen someone from day one try to maximise what he’s got and I think if you do that, you always give yourself the best chance of success.
“We understand where we are as a club and as individual players, but it’s important that we always have those ambitions to be better and get to a higher level. If Ibby continues to commit as much as he does to his game, then I think he’ll have the rewards in due time.”
Meanwhile, the Ammies host Wolverhampton Wanderers Under 21s this evening in the Second Round of the Football League Trophy. Alexander has previously paid homage to the competition, using the trophy to rotate his squad and rest his starting eleven.
SalfordNow understands the club face no fresh injury concerns, with Alexander’s side having an extended break after their exit from the FA Cup with no fixture last weekend.