Aaron Hassall has reflected on an ‘unbelievable’ two years with Leicester City after the teenager parted company with the Premier League champions.
Leicester paid a five-figure fee to take the then 16-year-old Hassall to the King Power Stadium from Airbus UK Broughton in August 2014.
It was the stuff of dreams for the Blacon youngster, who had made eight senior appearances – including a Europa League debut against Norwegian side FK Haugesund – for the Wingmakers, having come through the club’s academy.
Hassall’s time with the Foxes has coincided with one of the most remarkable stories in the history of English football as Claudio Ranieri transformed them from relegation candidates into Premier League title winners.
Now aged 18, Hassall was one of nine players Leicester released at the end of the season but has no regrets whatsoever and believes the experience has taken his game to a new level.
“It’s been unbelievable really just to be in and around a team that’s achieved so much,” said Hassall, a former pupil at Queen's Park High School .
“In the two years I’ve been there, obviously I’m a bit gutted I didn’t get offered a new contract, I learned so much and have come on physically and mentally.
“I’ve learned a lot from being around players like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, like movement and things like that. It’s been a class experience.
“I was only 16 when I went there and it was a like a whole new world because I was moving away from home.
“The first day I stepped into the training ground, it was a case of ‘woah, you’ve actually signed for a Premier League team’. The facilities were outstanding and it really is a different world.
“Leicester had a massive squad last year so I didn’t get to play much for them and, at the end of the season, there were nine of us who were let go.
“It’s a bit gutting but I’ve had two years there and that’s on my CV. I held my own there and didn’t feel out of place.”
Airbus boss Andy Preece promoted Hassall to the senior squad in February 2014 after he impressed in the academy. Less than six months later, he was in the Premier League with Leicester.
Now living back at home and training with Ed Harper at the Number One HSP facility in Queensferry, Hassall – who has represented Wales at under-18 and under-19 level – has received interest clubs in the Football League and National League, and is looking forward to progressing his career.
“I just want to play football now really,” he said.
“Obviously I want to stay as high as I can for as long as I can but if I have to drop down a few leagues then I’m prepared to do that as long as I’m playing games and enjoying my football.
“I had a couple of loan spells when I was at Leicester and that was really good. I went to Corby Town in the Conference North and Stamford in the Evo-Stik League.
“It was about getting minutes and I really enjoyed the physical games because that was what I’d come from at Airbus.
“I’ve been speaking to my agent and there’s a few clubs interested so I’ll be going on trial to a couple of places and play it by ear really.
“Hard work was massive at Leicester but it was like that at Airbus, too. Because I was so young, I had to work twice as hard and when you get to Leicester, it’s all about work-rate.
“I’ve been training with Ed since I came home and making sure I’m keeping fit for the start of the pre-season.
“We’ve been doing lots of fitness work and a lot of sharpness to blow the cobwebs off and getting a sweat on so that I’ve got that head start when pre-season begins and I can impress.”