A CHESTER teenager has packed his bags and left to begin a new life in London - after signing for Premiership outfit Fulham.
A host of clubs were pursuing Callum Hawthorne's signature, but the Wales Under 19 goalkeeper believes the move to the capital was the right choice.
'Everton, Cardiff, Swansea and Reading were also interested in signing me but I chose Fulham because it's a really good set-up down there with excellent facilities,' said the 16-year-old from Vicars Cross, who qualifies to play for Wales because his father was born there.
The former Christleton High School pupil is making the step up to U18 level this season and proud father Gary is sure his son's brave decision to head south will pay off.
He said: 'We didn't have enough time to look around every club due to him concentrating on his GCSEs, but he liked the way the club is run. The first, reserve and academy teams all use the same facilities at the football club.
'Callum started training in January and played in victories against Arsenal and Leicester. But due to the long distances travelled he was unable to sign a contract until this July.'
The teenage goalkeeper had been training with West Bromwich Albion U17s but was restricted to a maximum of two days a week because he was still at school.
'Last season I couldn't train as often as I liked because of my exams,' he admitted. 'It was a two-hour drive to the training ground. Where I'm staying now is a 10-minute bus journey to Fulham's training pitch.'
Having stepped up to U18 level, Callum has really noticed the difference in class.
He said: 'I'm training five days a week now and it's a lot more intense. The players that I am playing with and against are quicker, stronger and technically better. As a result I have improved my game.'
Callum has recently returned from international duty with Wales U19s at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland, where he held his own against players several years older than him.
'I was originally on standby for the competition but Rhys Taylor played for Chelsea (instead of Wales) so I replaced him,' said Callum. 'It was a great experience to play with and against professionals. In the first match against USA I competed against five or six players from Major League Soccer in America. I also played alongside four professionals including striker Mark Williams of Wrexham who has made a few substitute appearances for his club.'
Callum saved a first-half penalty against the USA when Wales were already 3-0 down.
According to his father, the opponents' lead could have been far greater.
'To be honest it could have been six or seven if it wasn't for Callum,' said Gary. 'The USA are an excellent side and finished third in the World Championships last year. Wales' manager, Brian Flynn, was really pleased with his performance.'
Callum was disappointed to be left out for the second match but was recalled for the final game against Turkey, which Wales lost 3-1.
Callum started his football career as a striker for Christleton New Scene and was picked for Chester and Cheshire schoolboys before deciding to try a spell between the posts.
At the age of 12 Callum was spotted by Manchester United.
Gary adds: 'Callum went to United for two or three months but didn't enjoy it because there was too much pressure.'
Spells with Tranmere and Liverpool followed before he moved to West Brom last season.
Callum, who turns 17 next month, is pushing for a place in Fulham's reserve team and Tony Warner's recent loan move to Leeds could pave the way for the teenager to make an appearance on the substitutes' bench in the not too distant future.