When a teenage footballer bursts onto the scene as the next bright young thing, their career – generally speaking – goes in one of two directions.
With the favourable guidance and a good support network, often they will not look back. Other times, factors including the decisions of others, or just general bad luck, can leave burgeoning talent to fall by the wayside.
The early years of Josh Tymon’s story are a prime example of the latter.
After joining his hometown club Hull City as a 12-year-old in 2011, his talent was quickly recognised, leading to a fast-track route to the U18 squad, where he was playing at the tender age of 15. At 16, he made his first-team debut in the FA Cup and by the time he was 17, he had played five Premier League games for the Tigers.
The teenager’s stock was rising at an astonishing rate and so there was perhaps little surprise when Stoke made an approach after Hull were relegated to the Championship in the summer of 2017.
Tymon subsequently signed a five-year contract at the bet365 Stadium, but the momentum he had begun to generate on Humberside soon slowed. He made just five first-team appearances in his first season, which ended with a loan spell at MK Dons, with just two following in 2018/19.
“I would be lying if I if I said it wasn’t difficult,” Tymon explains, frankly, to Sky Sports.
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“It has been really challenging mentally from being on cloud nine at the age of 16/17, leaving my hometown, which was a tough decision, moving away from home and then signing for a huge football club.
“Being on cloud nine playing Premier League at such a young age and then coming to a club and kind of hitting a brick wall, it does make you question if you’ve done the right thing and you do start to think, is my career going in the right way it should be?”
Chances were clearly not forthcoming under Nathan Jones in 2019/20 either, leading to Tymon making the decision to head to Portugal to join Primeira Liga side Famalicao on a season-long loan.
On paper, it was not the most attractive prospect for a young English player looking to turn his career around. But while he only made six appearances in the five months he was with Azuis e Brancos, he has no regrets.
“Again, it was a difficult decision when it first came around and I had to really think about it,” he continues.
“I went over there to visit before I made my decision and it took even time after that to decide if I wanted to go. But now looking back, I am really glad I did go at that age, not just for football but a life experience as well of living abroad.
“It was unbelievable experience football-wise on how they do things in a different country and I think that’s why you see so many English players going abroad now.”
By the time he arrived back in England, there was a new man in charge of the Potters.
Michael O’Neill arrived at the club in November 2019, but did not hand Tymon his second chance immediately. In fact, it was only a little more than a year ago that he started to appear regularly in the side.
But it is fair to say the 22-year-old has seized it.
Deployed in various positions on the left flank and in midfield, he made a career-high 29 appearances last term, while this term, he has made the left wing-back role his own and chalked up 11 appearances, one assist and two goals – including one against Watford in the Carabao Cup he insists he didn’t mean, “as good as it looks on camera”.
Despite his young age, it has been a long and frustrating road to this point. Every cloud has a silver lining, though, and Tymon admits the trials and tribulations have helped him become a more rounded player as a result.
“Going through what I’ve gone through early on in my career at a young age has really helped me because now I know how to deal with the setbacks if I do get any further down the line in my career. I put it all down to hard work, sticking by it and trying to improve everything.
“I think dealing with what has been thrown my way so early has mentally made me much stronger; I feel like I can deal with pretty much anything. Now I feel like I’m back on cloud nine again. In the past I used to go into games nervous, whereas now I still get those pre-game nerves, but now it comes with a lot more confidence also.
“All the credit goes to him [O’Neill], really, for giving me the chance and really building my confidence back up when it was really at its lowest in the past. Being dead honest with me has really helped me this year. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me since he’s come to the club.
“I have a nice working relationship with him but I’d say most of the lads have, if not all of them. He’s really good one-to-one and if you ever need anything or if he feels he can help you with a previous game that’s gone by then, then he’ll go out his way to do that.”
It is quite apt that the individual trajectories of both Tymon and his club have looked very similar over the past few years.
While the player has struggled to establish himself in the team, Stoke have failed to finish above 14th in the three seasons that followed relegation from the Premier League after a decade-long stay.
But with five wins and two draws from their opening 10 Sky Bet Championship matches, O’Neill’s men are firmly in the promotion conversation. Tymon knows that such a positive start can only help in laying a solid foundation ahead of the busy schedule that lies ahead.
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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Preston and Stoke
“Since the club got relegated, our previous stats in the Championship have not really been good enough and it can really set you up for how each season is going to look. I know it’s still early on in this season, but I think, if you do get off to a good start, it does build momentum and positivity around the ground, especially when you’re at home.
“In particular this year, we’ve got off to a really good start. I know we’ve had a few dips in there, but that’s going to happen. You’re not going to be at your best every week, and we’ve bounced back, which is also a good thing.
“If you look at the squad that we’ve got this season, there’s so much hunger in there to really make a name for ourselves and to get this club where you know back where it belongs.
“You’ve got the older experienced players who still want to achieve something in their career, no matter what they’ve already done in the past, and there’s a lot of the younger players in the squad this season who are really hungry to help each other and achieve something big this season.”