AFTER signing for Bury AFC via YouTube, goalkeeper Abidan Edwards is no stranger to going the extra mile as he aims for the top.

In lockdown, Edwards is a football coach’s dream. The 22-year-old from Birmingham dedicates his time to improving, despite the suspension of the North West Counties Football League.

While the game may be at a standstill, his YouTube channel is full of training clips - from weightlifting in his back yard, to energy-sapping goalkeeping drills in fields, he is keeping busy.

Speaking on Bury AFC’s Shaken up Show, he reflected on his daily regime.

“I’ve looked at it as an opportunity to get as fit as possible and try and improve on certain weaknesses that have been highlighted… so when we do eventually get back, that I’m the best version of myself.”

And it was these efforts that led to him being invited by Bury AFC coaching staff in December to train with Andy Welsh’s side.

Bury AFC boss Andy Welsh. Picture: Haydan Roberts

Bury AFC boss Andy Welsh. Picture: Haydan Roberts

“I was going up to the gaffer to shake his hand and he knew my name straight away and he told me that he liked the YouTube channel.

“So straight away, going into a new club, that just settled me right down.”

After a trial with Stockport County last year ended abruptly with the first the lockdown, Edwards signed for Bury AFC as a free agent.

He has managed only one substitute appearance before the season suspension but the 22-year-old stopper is used to overcoming adversity.

Edwards describes signing for West Bromwich Albion, as a 13-year-old boy, as a dream come true. By the time he moved to Birmingham City, he believed he was destined for the top.

That was until he was released, aged 17.

“At the time, I was very egotistic. I’d just left school, I was full of testosterone and as a young player, you think you’re owed a lot. You’re not owed anything by the game.

“Football is ruthless and I didn’t realise (that) at that age but I learned a tough lesson there.”

And asked what he would say to his younger self, Edwards says he would tell him to stay humble.

“When you’re that age, subconsciously you think you’ve made it. You think, ‘This is it, I’m going to be a professional footballer, I’m there’ and you relax.

“If I had the same work-ethic that I do now, back then, I don’t know where I’d be… but I try to learn from the mistakes I’ve made in the past.”

Edwards subsequently dropped into non-league, spending the last five years gaining experience playing in the Midlands.

Moving to Manchester enabled him link up with Pascal Chimbonda, as part of the former Wigan defender’s football academy.

Bury AFC shot-stopper Abidan Edwards. Picture @RedLanternPhoto

Bury AFC shot-stopper Abidan Edwards. Picture @RedLanternPhoto

And his experience there led to trials at the soon-to-be-liquidated Macclesfield Town before his ill-timed spell at Stockport.

Whilst others may have seen such misfortune as fatal, for Edwards, it has done nothing but strengthen his resolve.

“It’s a brutal business… (but) you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to pick yourself up and go again because I’m not being forced to play football. This is what I want to do.”

With the spectre of racism continuing to cast its shadow over the national game, Edwards also knows that as a black goalkeeper, he can be a target.

Thankfully, he has not experienced abuse either online or from the terraces. And in the dressing room he hopes that attitudes have changed since his formative years in non-league.

“I think one thing I found tough when I was younger was just hearing some of the things that other players say in the changing room that’s passed off as ‘banter’.

“And being young and having no influence and no voice, you kind of just laugh.

“I remember being there and just laughing it off but it was a bit awkward.

“I haven’t experienced that in a while now and hopefully I never experience it again.”

From his spells as an unknown trialist, however, Edwards knows that there are still stereotypes to be challenged.

“Everyone’s friendly, everyone’s nice and then you take your boots out, and (then) you take your gloves out and it’s a massive shock.

“Everyone assumes you’re going to be a winger or a striker or a centre-back.

“It’s tough for me to remember how many black goalkeepers there have been at the top of the game, so that motivates me even more, to get where I want to get to.”

For Abidan Edwards, his determination to succeed appears to be second to none, particularly as uncertainty clouds this season.

He may have only managed five minutes in a Bury AFC shirt but if his ability matches his desire, he may not be playing in the tenth tier for long.