Mark Wright has revealed he had a ‘do or die attitude’ to make his professional debut in football.
The 33-year-old, who was released by Tottenham and Southend as a youngster, joined League Two Crawley on a non-contract basis last month.
And he made his debut as a second-half stoppage time substitute in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Leeds in the FA Cup third round.
Wright, who used to star in hit television series The Only Way is Essex, admitted he had to work even harder than his teammates to make it in football at the second attempt.
He told Monday’s talkSPORT Breakfast: “It’s been hard. For three months, some of the boys at Crawley were like ‘why are you running so much?’
“The fitness coach was like, ‘you’ve got to take rest’ and the manager was saying to rest.
“But for me, it was a do or die attitude because I’m so far behind the curve when I first went in.
“I might be fit doing workouts on Instagram, playing football with my mates, I go for runs, but there is nothing like being a full-time footballer. It’s a level above.
“I’ve got so much respect for footballers. The fact they’ve been doing it for this long… It’s so demanding on the body, your time and the way you feel and how tired you get at night.
“Where I was so behind the curve, I felt if I just train normally with the boys I’ll catch up so much slower, I needed to do more than what they were doing to bridge the gap.
“I’ve worked very hard, it’s been gruelling on the body and mind, but I’m getting where I need to be now.”
Wright insists he has a much different attitude now to when he was a youth player for Tottenham and Southend.
The left-back said: “When I was young and playing for Tottenham and Southend, I never stayed out after training.
“I sacked it off and couldn’t wait to get home and see the boys and go out for a drink, meet the girls down the local bar.
“I lost my dream, the dream was to play football, I did it all my life. It was my own fault.
“Now when I look back, if I prepared the way I’m preparing now, things could have been a lot different. I’m putting everything into it and getting closer and closer.”
Wright’s debut was topped off with a stunning result against Premier League opposition in Leeds.
Goals from Nick Tsaroulla, Ashley Nadesan and Jordan Tunnicliffe saw the Red Devils reach the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2012.
Wright, who also made his debut alongside younger brother Josh, added: “It was an incredible day. I only got on for a few minutes, which is still an achievement for me.
“The fact I’ve come this far to be able to be involved in the squad and make an appearance, especially to do it with my brother Josh, who made his debut for the club as well.
“To have him there was a special moment for me and the whole family.
“More importantly, taking the fact I got on for a few minutes away, it was just being part of the squad and team I’ve been training with for the last three months and the team I’ve signed for just to smash Leeds 3-0 like that.
“Just to be there celebrating after, being on the side watching my team go through this momentous moment, it was just amazing all around.
“From start to finish, being there against Leeds, being there with my brother, making my debut, being on the bench, everything together and getting a 3-0 win, the boys were absolutely sensational.
“There was no kind of FA Cup luck, there was no last-minute situation or penalties, our boys were incredible from start to finish.”