DEFENDER TOM RELISHING OPPORTUNITY TO GET BACK PLAYING WITH COVE RANGERS
NEW ARRIVAL: Cove Rangers' latest signing Tom Leighton at Balmoral Stadium.
FORMER Watford defender Tom Leighton says he is delighted Cove Rangers have given him the chance to get his career back on track.
The 19-year-old Northern Ireland youth international has agreed a deal for the rest of the season and goes straight into the squad for tomorrow’s Ladbrokes League Two clash with Stenhousemuir at Balmoral Stadium.
Tom, who began his career as a youth player with Motherwell, had been without a club since leaving Watford at the end of last season.
“People don’t realise how tough it can be when all you have known is being involved in football and then suddenly you’re not playing,” said Tom, who also had trials with a number of clubs, including Celtic and Aberdeen, since leaving the Hornets.
“It’s upsetting and I just wanted to get through it in the hope that someone would eventually offer me the opportunity to get back on the pitch again.
“I’m very happy Cove Rangers have given me that chance.
“I’ve joined a highly ambitious club so signing for Cove was an easy decision to make, they ticked all of the boxes for me.
“The task ahead of me now is to try and push on, earn some game time and see where that takes me to.”
The opportunity to play for Cove Rangers boss Paul Hartley was one of the major attractions for Tom - as was the chance to be reunited with his assistant, Gordon Young.
Tom was coached by Gordon during his spell in charge of Motherwell’s youth academy.
Tom said: “Gordon first started coaching me when I was just a wee lad, when I was still at school.
“It’s good to have a familiar face at the club and I know working with Gordon again is something I will benefit from.
“He’s already given me some useful advice about how to respond to what has happened to me over the last few months.
“Gordon showed me a photograph highlighting how career paths in football aren’t always straight up, that they can often be a long, squiggly road, with setbacks along the way.
“Gordon spoke of how important it is to keep going and keep believing you will eventually get to where you want to be.
“It’s about making the best of any opportunities you get to move forward again, which is what Cove have given me.”
EARLY DAYS: Tom Leighton signing schoolboy forms for Motherwell watched by then head of youth development Gordon Young, who is now the assistant boss at Balmoral Stadium.
Carluke-born Tom, who can play anywhere along the back line, was regarded as one of the hottest talents coming through the youth system at Fir Park.
Snapped up by the Steelmen when he was just 12-years-old, his performances for them quickly attracted attention from a host of top clubs, including Portuguese giants Benfica.
Tom travelled to Lisbon for trials with Benfica but that was cut short when he suffered an injury in training.
When Tom recovered he opted to sign full-time for English Premier League Watford instead.
He captained their youth side and also featured in the Watford Under-23 side.
But Tom was disappointed not to get more opportunities at first team level, so returned to Scotland in the summer.
Having finally ended up at Balmoral Stadium, Tom hopes to use his experiences from his time at Vicarage Road to his advantage with Cove.
They included training alongside Hornets star defender, French international Younes Kaboul, who also played for Spurs and won the League Cup with them in 2008.
He said: “Watford was a brilliant experience for me.
“I learned a lot down there, particularly when I was allowed to train with the first team.
“That meant rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kaboul, who is a fantastic defender.
“He gave me lots of very useful advice, as did all of the other experienced guys at Watford.
“I hope to use that well as I attempt to repay Cove for showing faith in me.
“I’m looking forward to learning from the more experienced guys at Cove as well.
“Big Scott (Ross) has already been a big help in training and I would love the chance to play alongside him.
“But I know that is something I will have to earn.”
HOT HORNET: Tom Leighton winning a tackle while playing for Watford.