No matter the experience or pedigree of other players, Mickey always fitted in despite the Sunday League background he came from. He had to prove himself at Worthing, he matured at Bognor, his next move however, was his biggest test to date.
“What was looking like my 2nd season at Bognor we played a pre-season game against Worthing and Glen Hoddle Academy scouts were there to watch Ben Williamson who was playing up front for Worthing at the time.”
“I had a good game and a couple of weeks later I received a phone call saying they wanted to take a look at me in a a few trial games in the summer along with Ben. I didn't even know at the time they were there to watch Ben so as you can imagine the phone call came at a surprise.”
“I trialled over that summer for four or five weeks with them over at Bisham Abbey where I'd go up there for a couple of days at a time.
“That was a real eye-opener because once again I was surrounded by players all from professional clubs. Where as before at Worthing Under -18’s it was 16/17 year old lads being released from Brighton/Portsmouth youth teams, This time it was 18/19/20 -year-old lads that had been released after their scholarships from top level clubs all around the country, then there's me and Ben at the time who is just coming from non-league pyramid!”
“I was successful in the trial and went over to Spain for seven months, being coached by Glenn himself, Graham Rix, Nigel Spackman, Dave Beasant, coaches from the top level, so that was a privilege.”
“It helped me massively, especially as a centre-half, going in and being taught by those coaches, you could sit there and listen to them all day.
“We played against top level teams while we were over there, whether it was Spanish teams or other teams on tour over in Spain at the time. We were also linked with a Spanish third tier team at the time called Jerez Industrial which was a great experience to be around.”
“It was a hard decision at the time to go there, but also an easy one as well, the hard part was I was moving away from home, my family, my girlfriend which I should probably say is my Wife now and all my friends but i also knew If I'd turned that opportunity down at the time who knows what I'd be doing now.”
Mickey’s link up with the Glenn Hoddle academy wasn’t just about finding a professional or higher up club but also, just to improve him as a player. Especially given the calibre of coaches he was working with.
It definitely opened doors for him though as he was able to make another big step up upon his return.
“When I came back from the Glenn Hoddle Academy I went to Lewes FC for a little bit to train with them and then randomly I got a phone call from Eastbourne Borough. I went up on a Tuesday to train, which, living in Worthing, was a bit of a trek! They offered me the chance to play the rest of the season.
“They had a couple of boys from Brighton-way, Rikki Banks, and Gary Elphick, so I used to jump in with them. It was good to be fair, it obviously didn't end well that season, we were relegated but the jump up in levels was still a learning curve for me.
“I was still only 21, still learning as a footballer and to go and then play in the Conference Premier was a big step for me. I didn't play much at the start, it's always hard to go to a team mid-season because they're mostly always settled.
“So, it wasn't until March-time that I'd made an appearance which was obviously frustrating for me, but I didn't expect it. They had very experienced players and I was a young lad coming through. Fortunately, I got a chance towards the end of the season when relegation was all but confirmed, so he just played me to see if they had a player for the future.”
Mickey takes a lot from the short experience at Borough, and it enabled him to work with and learn from some very experienced players. He was ready to sign for the following season until an incredible offer came in for him.
“One of my first games at Borough was against Kidderminster Harriers, and shortly after the season they invited me up for a trial. They wanted to sign me straight away, so I'd obviously done well!
“It was my first, full-time professional club at 21, and for this it meant it was the first time I'd need to permanently move away from home.
“Similarly, as going to Spain, it was a hard decision but easy, because it's something I love doing, and I had to take the chance of going full-time.
“I was under Steve Burr and Gary Whild, both of whom I still speak to now. They moulded me into a left-back at the time, I really enjoyed playing under them. I aspired of course to play full-time, and they gave me that opportunity so I will be forever thankful.
“It was still a case of biding my time at first; the left back there at the time was the captain and an older pro, Mike Williams his name. He'd been made captain that season, so I knew I was going to have to prove myself.
“The opportunity came in the October of my first season when Mike got injured and I didn't really come out of the team after that for three years. For me, I was quite happy with how my time went there, we did some incredible things on the pitch despite not getting promoted, played some great football.
“The Second Year we came close to getting promoted, one of the many teams in the Conference Premier that have struggled to get out, we finished second on 95 points! I'm not sure how you don't get promoted on 95 points, I've always said it has to be one of the hardest leagues to get out of because only one goes up automatically. We then lost in the Play-Off semi final to Wrexham who then lost to Newport County in the Final that year which at the time I didn’t realise would be very useful for me.”
“The third year we had a few cup runs that were quite nice, went up to Sunderland in The FA Cup Fifth Round, the furthest the club had ever got.
“We went through three managers in that final year, so it was a bit of a whirlwind, but we still did well and finished just outside the play-offs.