From the San Siro to the Gallagher Stadium, Ben Greenhalgh has experienced both ends of the stick as he continues to impress for Maidstone United.
In 2010 Greenhalgh’s life changed forever when he was offered a professional contract with Inter Milan after winning television series, Football’s Next Star.
Prior to his big break with Inter, the Orpington born attacker had been part of Welling United’s setup.
After a year in Italy with Inter Milan and Calcio Como, Greenhalgh returned to England were he spent time with Brighton and Hove Albion.
Following advice that he should seek first team football, the former Inter player returned to Welling United before moving onto fellow Non-League setups: Ebbsfleet United and Maidstone United.
Another move away from England followed when Inverness Caladonian Thistle signed up the youngster in June 2013. After not being guaranteed first team football and a loan move to Stenhousemuir, Greenhalgh returned to England, for his second spell with Maidstone United.
On his return to the English game, Greenhalgh signed for Concord Rangers where he impressed winning the Isthmian League Cup and the Isthmian League Premier Division Play-Offs.
In May 2016, the 24-year-old returned to National League side, Maidstone United for a third spell at the Gallagher Stadium.
Greenhalgh recently joined Hemel Hempstead on loan until the end of the season.
The former Inter Milan man has spoken to ElWriteBack about his time in Italy, returning to England and what his plans for the future are.
You shot to fame when you joined Inter Milan’s youth set up following the television series: Football’s Next Star. What was it like being part of this series?
Football’s Next Star was unbelievable to be involved in, we went from a few football matches in London to living in a mansion in Como. It was a good laugh out in Italy, 10 young boys living the dream, but one was getting sent home every week under the cameras which built up the pressure every week.
The show was entertaining to watch for most football fans with the backing of Jamie Redknapp and Inter Milan.
How did you find Italy and was it a big jump from England?
The football in Italy didn’t phase me and it suited the way I played, I had a good couple of years with the Inter reserves and Como on loan but I always wanted to play back in England, returning probably wasn’t the best decision but it’s where I wanted to play my football.
You mention your spell with Calcio Como where you impressed. Why didn’t you remain in Italy after this?
My spell with Como went well, I scored eight in 12 and made a name for myself with the club but there were some financial issues with a lot of lower clubs in Italy and the players hadn’t been paid for three months. I was lucky as I was on loan but obviously couldn’t permanently commit to the club at that stage.
You reportedly spent time with Birmingham City and Brighton when returning to England. Why did you drop down to non-league?
I went to Brighton and was with the reserves and development squad for five months, but I was focused on getting first team football and it was difficult in England as I had been off the radar for over two years. I wasn’t bothered about making a drop, I just knew I needed to play first team football to try and get me back in the market and the quickest play of doing that was playing in the Conference.
How did you find your return to English football between 2011 and 13?
I spent the last few months of the 11-12 season with Welling where I made my first team debut and then the following season I signed with Ebbsfleet. During that spell Inverness had their eyes on me and offered me a deal in January.
You joined Inverness CT for the 2013/14 season. How did this opportunity to move to Scotland come about?
Terry Butcher had been watching me since I returned to England and gave me the opportunity to play in the SPL. I enjoyed my time up there, and was involved and playing well for the first few months but Butcher moved on to Hibs and John Hughes came in where I wasn’t really in the picture. Changes happened with the new management but it made things frustrating, this caused me to leave Scotland and look for football elsewhere.
You have spent the majority of your career with Maidstone United. Is this somewhere you feel is “home”?
Maidstone is a great club, over 2000 fans week in week out, a good stadium and a 3G pitch. When I first joined there was so much future in the club and it’s been great to be part of the promotions and cup stories
How do you feel about Maidstone’s performances this season?
We’ve struggled this season, the first couple of months we were going well and playing some good football but we lost a bit of momentum with letting in too many goals. It’s tough for the club because we’ve always been winning and it’s our first season being down the bottom half of the table. There’s been a lot of signings to try and keep us in the league but it’s going to be a big few months or the club.
Is staying in the National League the side’s main target this season?
That’s the only thing to play for now. After the last two promotions getting relegated would be really tough to take.
What are your plans for next year?
I’m not going to start thinking about next year until towards the end of next season. I just want to keep enjoying my football.
Would you ever consider another move abroad from past experiences?
I’d love to go abroad again now that I’ve experienced football in England, and have got a little older. I regret turning down opportunities to play in America and Italy but if they came about again I’m sure I would approach a move more open minded!