Brentford defender Alfie Mawson has revealed he came close to quitting football last year before steering Wycombe Wanderers to Wembley this season.
The 21-year-old has been a revelation during his loan spell at Adams Park and picked up Wycombe’s Supporters’ and Players’ Player of the Year awards earlier this month.
He played a key role in the Chairboys booking their place in the League Two play-off final last Thursday night by scoring the second goal in a 2-1 win over Plymouth in Buckinghamshire.
That was the centre-back’s seventh strike of the season and helped send send Gareth Ainsworth’s side through to Saturday’s showdown with Southend under the famous arch.
It will be the youngster’s first run out at the national stadium and a fitting way to end a remarkable season for a player who was on the verge of packing it all in last March.
Mawson damaged his knee cartilage in a Bees development squad match and wasn’t sure wouldn’t be offered fresh terms by the Championship outfit.
Fearing his career could be over, the tough tackler signed up with a number of recruitment agencies as he pondered a life away from football before being talked out of hanging up his boots.
He said: “At the end of last season I tore my meniscus.
“I was doing well on loan at Welling at the time and was quite happy with my performances but I got the injury in a development game and it killed me.
“I didn’t know what to do and then I got called in while I was doing my rehab and was told they were offering me a new deal.
“It means a lot, especially when you’re injured. That would’ve been the worst thing, not being offered a new deal when you’re injured.
“Football’s a short career and I don’t want to be a player who is hanging on. You’ve got to be realistic in football.
“My family and my best mate really helped me through that time, little did they know they helped, but they really did. I’m trying to pay them back.
“I signed up to a few job websites. I still get emails through from them on my phone sometimes and it makes me think about it.
“I could’ve gone down that route and thank god I didn’t. It shows that you’ve got to get what you can while you can.
“Whatever happens next season happens but I’m just going to work hard and make the most of it.
“My family pushed me through, I got myself fit and now I’m going to Wembley.
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“I’d never have dreamt of this last season. We’re all absolutely over the moon and we’re going to attack it like every other game. I think we can do it.”
As well as sweeping the board at Wycombe’s end-of-season awards, Mawson was nominated for Sky Bet League 2 Player of the Year at The Football League Awards 2015.
The loan star was beaten to the gong by Bury’s Danny Maynor but was overwhelmed just to be in the running for the prize.
“They told me I’d been nominated and I was choked up, I didn’t know what to say. I was obviously gutted not to win but it was amazing to be nominated.
“The gaffer gave me a chance and I can’t talk highly enough of him.
“I knew where Wycombe were last year, struggling to stay up, and I came here expecting a challenge. The club wanted to put that to bed and I think we’ve done that.”