Kiernan Hughes-Mason – at just six years old – got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
After playing his first game of junior football, he was asked to join the academy for Premier League heavyweights Arsenal.
After spending his formative footballing years with Arsenal, a 15-year-old Kiernan then spent 18 months with Tottenham Hotspur, before moving to Millwall on a scholarship and kicked off his professional career in league one at 17.
“I learned to be a man quite early, it was very ruthless and not pretty, tacklers fly in, so I learned from a young age how to hold my own and look after myself on the pitch.”
Having bounced around a number of clubs, Kiernan got the call to come to New Zealand while playing for Barking FC.
Kiernan moved to the capital in July where he played for North Wellington, going unbeaten and winning the capital one competition.
The most recent chapter in his esteemed career brings him to Nelson where he will play in the 2018 ISPS Handa Premiership with Tasman United.
“It was a great opportunity to come out and one I couldn’t really turn down, a different country, a different style of football, so I thought why not?” Kiernan says.
The East Londoner of Antiguan, Barbudan, Dominican and Grenadian descent says he has had great impressions of the city and club so far.
“It’s a bit like back home, it’s very hot which is good, I am really enjoying it, boys are great, it’s the sort of club you want to play for, it is very well run,” he says.
Kiernan is also passionate about coaching, having managed the U18 Leatherhead academy.
“It’s something I really enjoy doing as it really helps me, our team here is quite young so it’s almost like a coaching role, too.”
A Manchester United supporter, Kiernan says he looks up to the likes of former England striker Ian Wright and fellow “East London boy” Jermaine Defoe.
He says he wants to make an impact with Tasman and repay the faith the club has shown in him.
“I am looking to get into double figures in terms of goals, we play 18 games, so I think that is realistic.”
Tasman United will open its 2018 campaign against Auckland City on October 21.