The crowd of about 20 parents ambled back to their cars, his team wandered into the complexion changing rooms but there he stood in the centre circle, hands on head aghast at where his playing career was going.
A Yorkshireman in foreign territory or at least in Liverpool anyway, Nathan Valentine’s Bootle reserve side had just been beaten 2-1 by Leeds based Eccleshill United. Yet for the then 20-year old, it was not the defeat itself that bothered the fledgling footballer, no, it was more the stagnation of a career in a ruthless industry.
Once bordering on Conference-North level at the age of just 17, holding midfielder Valentine – or Val to his peers, was now edging closer to the reserve level of North-West Counties. With little opportunity forth coming to make the jump into Bootle’s first-team, Valentine knew something had to change.
Fast forward three years, 139 first-team appearance later, something did change and the now vice-captain at Evo-Stik side Frickley Athletic, he feels his experiences at the bottom have motivated him to be the best he can.
Humble and grounded as he speaks, he says: “It was always disappointing, especially when you were not getting paid and you were going to training busting a gut, so to not get the rewards it was quite disheartening.
“But then when you are given an opportunity to go and play in the reserves you have to just go and take it regardless of who you are trying to impress, you have always got to maintain your attitude and take every game as it comes.”
Nathan’s move to the city of Liverpool came off the back of receiving an offer to study P.E. coaching at Liverpool John Moores University. In making the biggest switch of his life both on and off the pitch, the Yorkshireman primarily found it hard to bed into the Liverpool football circuit.
He remembers leaving his comfortable football surroundings for an area where football names are very much built on dedication and respect.
“My contacts were around Yorkshire so in Liverpool it was very much the case of I networked myself, I was the one in pre-season who did all the research into what clubs would have been suited to me.
“I went for a few trials at Vauxhall motors and Whitton Albion, but the big problem was I was not driving at the time so I had to really limit my restrictions.”
Despite the Bootle experiment and others not working Valentine soon sought pastures new across town with rivals AFC Liverpool, there under the guidance of Paul Moores, he became a mainstay, making 42 appearances, becoming a fans favourite.
“You need to play on the pitch and that’s what counts really and if you can prove yourself not only to manager and players but the fans as well that you can play at that level, then your respect comes from that,” he adds.
Nevertheless, after a fantastic season Valentine was persuaded to join Whitton Albion, a league above AFC Liverpool, but as is the nature of football he was let go in pre-season after the manager sought more experienced individuals.
But a feature of Nathan’s personality as has been displayed throughout this interview, is his willingness to get to the top. For a man so young he understands that straight roads to success in life and especially in football are a rarity.
The defensive midfielder then went to make 51 appearances for Evo-Stik division one side Radcliffe Borough and holds thanks to one man in particular for raising his confidence.
“I was given a lifeline at Radcliffe through Dave Powell who really went out on a limb to sign us, he met us a few times he spoke to me about the way they play and the position they were in.
“I never really came out the team all season so this allowed me to become experienced and established at a level higher than the year before which is what my goal was for that season anyway.”
His big oppurtunity came at the start of the 16/17 season when he returned to Leeds after graduation and signed for Evo-Stik Premier side Frickley Athletic. Just two leagues from the National League Valentine made a joint-top 46 appearances this season.
His fine form has not gone unnoticed and he was quickly snapped up by a professional sports agency.
In a season that has seen Frickley drop down a league, Valentine rejoices in the fact his side made the Sheffield Senior Cup Final which was hosted at Bramall Lane. Despite the 1-0 loss, a fine performance has seen him land talks with a variety of professional clubs from the National League to Sky Bet’s League 1 & 2.
But standing on the verge of professionalism the rather modest Nathan ends his talk by stating: “It would be fantastic to go and play professionally but at the same time I have to take my own teaching career into prospective.”
Whether it be the classroom or the pitch, Nathan Valentine has a bright future, yet we are yet to know the type of pen the Yorkshireman will be needing to take in work.