I nearly quit the game, says Antonio

  • by Staff Writer
  • Thursday, 19th September 2019

Michail Antonio has revealed that he was close to quitting football - before he won his first professional contract.

West Ham's popular winger is currently sidelined until the new year as a result of the thigh injury picked up against Newport County in the Carabao Cup last month.

However speaking in a piece for Jacomo, he revealed that but for his brother's intervention he would have called it a day several years ago.

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"There was one stage in my career where I thought I wasn't going to make it," said Antonio . "I didn't have that much money growing up and my dad said to me: 'This football thing isn't a real job.'

"I spoke to my brother and said: 'I'm 17 now, I'm getting too old and I think I'm going to give up on football.' And my brother said to me: 'I'm not going to let you and I'll get you a real pair of boots.'

"Those were the boots that I became a professional with."

Yet for the 29-year-old Londoner , who began his career at Reading, that was just the beginning of his journey to becoming a Premier League star - an ambition he finally achieved when Slaven Bilic took a gamble on signing the then Nottingham Forest wide man in 2015.

"It's a constant battle," he added. "You've got to prove yourself with new players, new managers and the fans. Once I've achieved something I always push myself to achieve something else.

"Once I got into the reserves I said I needed to get into the first team. Once I got into the first team I said I needed to play in the Championship - and then I needed to get into the Premier League.

"Speaking to Premier League managers, they were telling me that I just wasn't consistent enough so I kept having to pick myself up and go again.

"Beacuse I didn't go through the Academy system I missed out on a lot of the technique work - so I'd go out early before training started to work on crossing and finishing to get to tthe point where I am now."

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Antonio made his professional debut whilst on loan at League One Cheltenham in a 2-0 defeat at Leeds in February 2009, at the age of 19. He began the following season back with the Royals but was soon punted out to Southampton on loan.

Further loan spells ensued at Colchester (2011) and Sheffield Wednesday (2012) before the Owls signed him on a free transfer, following just 33 appearances for parent club Reading.

Having impressed whilst at Hillsborough, Nottingham Forest signed him on a permanent basis in a ?1.5million deal in August 2014 - and little more than a year later, he was on his way to West Ham and the Premier League in a ?7million switch.

Antonio, who has been named in three England squads since but is yet to make his international debut for the Three Lions has now made 132 appearances for the Hammers - where he is a fans' favourite - and scored 28 goals.

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