ALL being well, three footballers – all from Bristol, all born in 1993 – could make significant debuts tomorrow: Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan in the Premier League and Scott Wilson in the Sky Bet EFL.
The players have grown up together, with Bristol City at the heart of their stories, albeit with their footballing journeys taking different routes.
Among the constants they share, however, is Rayan Wilson: Scott’s elder brother and the founder, owner and all-round lead figure at Back2Action – the Bristol-based sports performance consultancy that now attracts leading footballers and sportspeople from all over Europe.
Rayan, who set up the business in 2011 after his own footballing ambitions as a promising youngster at Birmingham City were curtailed by his battle with sickle cell disease, has steadily built a reputation for his work with footballers – either in helping them overcome injury or putting together programmes to help them perform better on the field.
Among the other players who have worked with him are Yannick Bolasie, Nacer Chadli, Danny Rose, Glenn Murray, Fran Kirby, Lloyd Kelly, Jamie Paterson and Marley Watkins.
When ROAR spent two days with Back2Action earlier this summer – which happened to fall on the day Reid became a £10 million footballer in leaving Bristol City for Cardiff City – players from Chelsea and Liverpool, among other Premier League clubs, were being put through their paces by Wilson and his fellow coaches.
Having started as a modest group that trained together “in a field”, Wilson said: “The aim for the business was to be able to sustain myself so I could pay my bills, if I’m being brutally honest, and help my brother get back into professional football.
“It started with me, my brother, and I picked up a pool of players, who I felt were like the underdog footballers; they weren’t necessarily at the top of their game – or they were about to fall out of the game.
“Like anything, as things start to grow, and people start to put trust into you, you start to think: ‘Hang on, not only can I help my brother, I can help this person, I can help that person, I can help this community of people, I can help this community of players. Hang on, I relate to more people than I thought I did; I’m onto something here’.”
Based at a special facility at Ashton Court Estate, Back2Action’s work is credited with aiding the development of many players – and it would be wonderful symmetry for Wilson and his team should his younger brother, Reid and Bryan all reach new milestones this weekend. Bryan – who joined Fulham on transfer deadline day – and Reid
Bryan – who joined Fulham on transfer deadline day – and Reid have arrived in the Premier League from Bristol City after impressing in the Championship, while Scott Wilson had to take one step back to go two forward.
After being released by Bristol City – twice – he got himself an education in business at Hartpury College and University Centre in Gloucestershire, alongside establishing himself in non-league football.
Last season he played a key role in Macclesfield Town’s promotion back to the EFL as Vanarama National League champions – and could make his long-awaited League debut at home to Grimsby Town tomorrow.“
“It’s been a long time coming,” said brother Rayan. “I try to be a fair brother – not a biased one –and if he was a dreadful footballer, I’d have hung his boots up for him a long time ago! But he’s not, he’s a good lad, he’s a good player, he’s got a phenomenal attitude when it comes to the game, and not everyone’s journey is going to be paved the same way.”
A few divisions higher up the ladder, Reid and Bryan could also make significant bows this weekend, with Cardiff at Bournemouth, and Fulham home to Crystal Palace – and Wilson has no doubt they will succeed.
On Reid, I said: “I look into Bobby’s eyes and I think to myself: ‘Do you have what it takes to play in the Premier League?’ And having looked in a number of different Premier League players’ eyes, I’ve always said he’s a cut above the rest. He’s got what it takes.”
The ROAR video, shot at Back2Action in July, includes interviews with Rayan and Scott Wilson, Bobby Reid, Liverpool’s former Bristol City youngster Herbie Kane, and Gemma Davison of Reading Women and the England national team.