At the ripe old age of 22, Shaun Timmins is already well versed in the rollercoaster world of professional football.
A defender with a thick Brummie accent, Timmins achieved a childhood dream in 2009 when he signed a full pro contract for his hometown club Birmingham City.
He dished out tickets to his proud family and the future looked bright for the Ireland age-group international.
But the timing just wasn't right to break into first-team football.
Birmingham were promoted to the English Premier League for the 2009-10 season and manager Alex McLeish went shopping, bringing in defenders Gregory Vignal, Giovanny Espinoza and Roger Johnson.
Timmins dropped down the pecking order and was released in 2010 without playing a senior match.
Disillusioned, Timmins contemplated giving the game away.
''Yeah I did to be honest with you,'' said Timmins, who on Sunday instead made an unlikely pro debut for the Wellington Phoenix.
''I had a trial at Sheffield United and I really should have took my opportunity there. But my head was a bit... I don't know, it was a bit all over the place.
''With football you're going to get your ups and downs and stuff so it was just all over the place. But after having time to think about it I just thought I'd come out to Australia and make a fresh start.''
That was a good choice.
Timmins played for Victorian Premier League club Green Gully last year, alongside former Melbourne Victory captain Rodrigo Vargas.
He laboured on building sites, starred in the VPL and Vargas recommended him to his old Victory coach, Ernie Merrick.
The now Phoenix mentor invited Timmins to train at Newtown Park and he also turned out for Team Wellington in the national league.
His next break came when Tarek Elrich's elbow fractured Reece Caira's cheekbone in Adelaide last month.
Merrick then signed Timmins as an injury replacement until the end of the A-League season.
And when Josh Brindell-South suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Perth Glory on Sunday, Timmins' number was called.
''It's crazy. They've had a few injuries down here so it's bad for the lads but I've been pretty lucky,'' Timmins said.
''I'm really buzzing to be fair. Football, you need the timing as well. Birmingham got into the Premier League when I received my pro so it was very hard for me to make it into the first-team. I was a bit unlucky with the timing because they're back in the Championship now and a lot of my friends are playing.
"I'm just really happy Ernie gave me the opportunity to stay here. The lads are sound and it'd be a dream, obviously, to get a contract next year, it really would. It's a good life when you're playing football fulltime.''
Timmins impressed in his 70-odd minutes at left back on Sunday; strong in the air and composed on the ball.
He also got forward well and was exhausted at the fulltime whistle.
Timmins is now set to step up to the starting lineup against Melbourne Heart at AAMI Park on Sunday.
''It was a tough introduction to A-League football but Shaun is well schooled,'' Merrick said.
''He hasn't trained a lot since the Premier League finished in Melbourne last year, so considering he's five or six months without playing much football he did a really good job. Very happy with him.''
Timmins is on an injury replacement contract for Spaniard Albert Riera.
He has permanent residency in Australia and has applied for citizenship, which would mean he wouldn't take up a valuable A-League import slot.
- The Dominion Post
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