“I was fortunate to get a second chance. I think since the Vardy stuff there are a lot more scouts looking around non-league than there used to and there are a lot more of these stories waiting out there.”
If you say the names Jamie Vardy and Jason Oswell to the average British football fan, they’d know the first but probably not the second.
But the two strikers have more in common than you think, along with other footballers who’ve fallen out of the professional game and have gone for it again.
The difference is one became a Premier League champion, while the other completed his goal of scoring in the Football League.
Everyone is well versed on the Vardy tale. Bombed out by Sheffield Wednesday only to rise again, power through the leagues, win Leicester City the Premier League title in a miracle that warranted talk of a possible film.
Oswell on the other hand has had the same journey, just on a smaller scale.
He dropped out of full time football, before getting his second chance. That second chance has now come to an end as the striker from the North West kicks off a new business and settles for life back in the part time game.
And as he explains, due to the impacts of Covid-19 on the beautiful game, he may not be the last who opts for two wages instead of chasing that one last go at football.
“With Coronavirus and everything that has gone with it, I don’t think players can be picky anymore,” he said.
“They will be thinking about staying in full time football, but those slightly older may be thinking is it worth it anymore, and would it be more beneficial to go down the route of working and playing part time.
“The only reason some won’t do that is if they are on long contracts, or they think it will hurt their pride, but I’ve never had a problem with that.”
And kicking off a conversation about his second chance in the game, he believes the story of Vardy rising from the non-league system is encouraging more clubs to go and find the next version.
“I was fortunate to get a second chance, and there are so many quality players down in the lower leagues.
“I think since the Vardy stuff there are a lot more scouts looking around than there used to and there are a lot more of these stories waiting out there.”
The 27-year-old from Northwich is now embarking a new venture of his own, but his career adventure so far is one of a plucky striker released from the professional game, who has refused to go away.
At Crewe as a youngster, he spent time on loan in Wales and England, before being shown the door at Gresty Road.
He signed for Inverness CT under Terry Butcher as a 19-year-old, but after seven months up north he was on the move again.
“It was tough for a 19-year-old. There isn’t much to do, it is hard to get back. It is a seven hour car journey and you can hardly get a flight. It would have been easier to go and play abroad.
“I was miles away from my missus and the family, so we agreed to part ways.”
After a Welsh Premier League player’s deal to play in Australia fell through, a senior figure in the game who always advised Oswell offered him the chance to take the place.
Within days he was on the plane to Australia, in a move the striker admits is one that could have seen him live in the country permanently.
He signed for AIPA Leichardt Tigers in the New South Wales league, scoring 13 goals in 19 games on the way to winning a trophy.
“I didn’t have a job but the money was good for training three nights a week, so I was sightseeing in the day and training at night.
“I was able to fly my missus out there, and I just enjoyed it while I could really. I loved it out there.
“I was fixed on living there for a long time as it was such a good experience. For anyone coming out of the pro game I would recommend it.
“My visa expired and I would have had to go and pick fruit or something to stay on, and I didn’t want to waste a year doing that.”
Oswell went back to Rhyl, where he had enjoyed a previous loan spell before signing for Airbus who were fighting at the top of the Welsh Premier League.
It was at this point he made his way into physiotherapy, with help from the PFA, and Oswell has heaped praised on the organisation for the help they gave him.
“I managed to sneak in onto a fast track course with the help of the PFA.
“Their help was awesome. They get a lot of stick to be fair but with me they were brilliant. I wasn’t a top level pro coming out of the game but they were brilliant.”
After his experiences abroad and in Scotland, Oswell was after stability and admitted he fell out of love with the game for a while.
His next move was to Mid Wales, as he signed for Newtown AFC, where he scored 50 goals in 94 games.
It was here where Oswell put himself back in that so-called shop window, and led to clubs back up the pyramid starting to take notice.
Oswell fired the Robins into Europe for the first time in almost two decades, and scored in both games of a European qualifier as the club beat Valletta of Malta.
“It was an awesome little club. I was sick of football at this point and wanted some consistency.
“Europe was so special, some people let it pass them by but I was always so grateful of what happened and how good it was.
“Scoring those goals wasn’t personal for me, I was out there with 10 of my mates and it made it extra special.”
In the following two seasons Oswell continued to rack up the goals, and in 2017 he went on an incredible run, bagging more than 10 goals in the second half of the season to fire Newtown into the European play-offs.
He missed those play-offs due to a university trip to Africa, and at that time he knew he had played his last game for the club.
Clubs came calling and Oswell signed for Stockport County, then a fallen giant who had slumped into the Conference North after being in the second tier less than 20 years ago.
“I felt a man leaving Newtown, with big game experience.
“Just because of the size and history of Stockport I was sold as soon as there was interest.”
Oswell’s 25 goal haul fired County into the play-offs where they just fell short, but Oswell wasn’t dwelling and was keen to move on to pastures knew.
His second chance in the professional game had arrived .Following goal after goal after goal, he now had his time to shine in the league.
Jim Bentley took the striker to Morecambe and Oswell knew it was his opportunity at one more shot to get that league goal he had always dreamed about.
“If it was two years on I would have stayed at Stockport for my whole career. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere for money, only to somewhere to play in the league.
“I was realistic jumping two leagues and I knew I wasn’t going to be the main man.
“It was tough going from week to week, but looking back I made 17 appearances in the first half of the season, had scored in the league which was my goal and then in the cup.
“I was just starting to get going as we went into the January, before Wrexham came in.
“Looking back I shouldn’t have been getting annoyed with game time, because I would have probably ended up playing 30 times that season, which for my first league season wouldn’t have been bad.”
After six months at Morecambe, Oswell moved again, this time closer to home and back to Wrexham who were having another go at getting back in the Football League.
“It was a tough decision, but Wrexham are a massive club and it was on my door step.
“It didn’t go as I wanted it to if I’m honest. Graham Barrow signed me then he left not long after.
“Wrexham were in a rut and I just never really got going that season. As a striker if you hit the ground running it is different.
“I had an operation in the summer and wanted to kick on, but you’d come in for a few games, have a bad game then you are out.
“I just wanted to be the main man and get that enjoyment back again.”
Oswell wasn’t offered a new deal at The Racecourse this year and has opted to leave full time football for a second time and go back to part time playing.
He has launched his own physiotherapy business and has signed for AFC Telford United, an ambitious club under the stewardship of Gavin Cowan.
The move back to part time playing has been in Oswell’s mind since January.
He’s a striker that can tell a better story than most who have dropped out of the game. Those who get released rarely end up back in the Football League.
They maybe don’t have the desire, suffer injuries or lose the love for the game.
But the new Telford striker showed the drive to get on the horse and ride back to professional football.
It’s highly unlikely he will do it again, but at 27, a prime age, he knows if he does bag 25 goals this season on the National League North, he could well get a third bite at the cherry.
“I have been planning this since probably January.
“You have to think about things outside football and I was weighing up what was best for me really.
“I know I have been lucky to experience what I have, and I know if I get 25 goals I could well make the jump again.
“I am not sure if I would go back again, but I know the opportunity could be there.
“I am 28 next season. I’ve achieved my main goal. I wanted to score one goal in the Football League and whether it was one or ten, it doesn’t bother me, that is accomplished now.”
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