Simon Williams catches up with former Brighton prospect Joe Gatting, who is now being tipped for England honours - in cricket!
Joe Gatting has stepped up to the crease after scrapping his football career in a bid reignite his passion for sport in the form of cricket.
Gatting signed for Brighton and Hove Albion at the age of just 16, this saw him complete a two year apprenticeship in which he plied the trade of a professional, something his father Steve endured with spells at Arsenal, Brighton and Charlton Athletic.
His decision to sign for Brighton was not an unchallenged move due to his equalled ability to play cricket.
"I was contemplating between the two for some time because obviously I hadn't needed to prioritise only one sport before. I asked my coaches what their opinions were, turned to people close to me for their advice, but in the end it was my dad who put my decision in perspective.
"Dad said that if I tried football and failed to make it, I could go back to cricket but would have learnt some important life skills," he told tribalfootball.com.
Joe's dad appeared for Brighton in their 1983 FA Cup Final and it appeared similar memories could be on the way for Joe too when his successful apprenticeship included a first-team debut at Southampton in January 2006 plus a further eleven appearances.
The foundations for a prominent career were built when Joe signed on the dotted line for three years with the Seagulls. This was followed by 27 senior appearances the next season, this added to Joe's imminent potential in football.
Unfortunately, Gatting's career at the Withdean Stadium had peaked and after Manager, Dean Wilkins was replaced by Micky Adams, he found himself unfavoured and out of the first team picture. This led to Gatting being loaned out to Woking FC and detached from the professional environment in which he had become institutionalised with.
"When the club's management changed hands I was no longer in the clubs future plans and I struggled to keep motivated when the training became continuous running and no skill work."
It was one morning before training that Gatting was struck by a moment of realisation indicating it was time to move on.
"To put it bluntly I woke up one morning and didn't want to go to training. I began to lose interest in football and stopped enjoying the game. I felt like I had being 'cheating myself' playing football when I wasn't enjoying it and knew I had to make a change to my career. I had completely changed my opinion of football and instead of looking for another club, I wanted to start playing something which I enjoyed. Since I hadn't left it too long, it seemed cricket was the perfect option and I've enjoyed playing ever since I made the change."
Job satisfaction re-emerged into Gatting's career when he was given an opportunity to revert back to bat and ball at the County Ground, home of Sussex County Cricket Club. A two mile difference made a world of difference to the young hopeful, when he signed a non-contract deal for the summer of 2009.
Being included in Sussex's pre-season warm-up in Abu Dhabi renovated the foundations of Gatting's sporting career as it awarded him the opportunity to strive towards a professional deal. A steady innings in his first match, put him first choice to replace the injured Chris Nash to open the batting in the second game against Surrey. This provided him the perfect platform to exceed his debut total, something he achieved after accumulating 110 runs.
Before Gatting signed professional forms with Sussex, he was also pulling up his socks for Ryman League Division One South outfit Whitehawk FC. The youngster hit eleven goals for the Hawks during his time there and boss Darren Freeman has nothing but praise for the sportsman, "He gave us a different option and his professionalism was excellent. He has helped us immensely. Cricket is his main thing but I would like to think we would see him back here in the future."
It's natural for comparisons to be debated but Gatting Jnr brushes aside all the pressures of being related to his Uncle Mike, the former England Captain.
"I feel privileged more than anything to have a Dad and Uncle who were successful in their sports because it is nice to have people close to me who have grown up in the same industry and have had to face similar choices as I did.
"It is so encouraging to have the both of them offering their own opinions, experiences and advice whenever I need it."
Gatting Jnr aims utilise his good fortune.
"To have a 'role model' around home and at the end of the phone is very fortunate, so I see myself lucky rather than under pressure. I am very proud of what they have both achieved, and aspire to be just like them."
There has been speculation around Gatting Jnr being a strong candidate to pull on England whites and follow in his Uncles footsteps and Mike Gatting believes it's not out of reach: "Joe is certainly talented and we will see in the next couple of years how quickly he learns what it takes to become an International cricketer."