IF any young player is struggling to deal with being released by a club as a teenager, they would do well to listen to Dan Moss.
Moss, 21, was let go by Burnley after a decade in their ranks despite winning a scholar of the year award while at Turf Moor.
Circumstances around every release differ, of course, not just in the processes in place to help players find a way back into the game but also the structures to support them outside of football. Some are more fortunate that others.
But the way Moss mentions “learning experiences” more than once during this interview tells you he was well-equipped to deal with rejection.
There is also a big element of fortune involved in players finding other clubs. Moss was lucky that Millwall representatives were at the same table as ones from Burnley at the scholar awards in London in 2019 and were looking for a right-back.
Even when those things fall into place, the right approach helps. Rather than feeling pressure, Moss told himself to enjoy the experience on trial with the Lions after his Clarets setback.
“It was a shock to the system because I had been in Burnley’s academy for a long time. I’d never really experienced being released before,” Moss tells NewsAtDen.
“[Millwall] were sitting at the same table as Burnley’s staff so they asked who was Burnley’s scholar of the year. They got into a conversation about me and Millwall were looking for a right-back for the under-23s at the time.
“I only found out about Millwall at the start of the summer, before the holidays, so I had an idea. I kept fit and everything and then found out I was going on trial in pre-season.
“It was a strange one, really. Obviously you’re a bit nervous but I was just excited more than anything. My main idea was to enjoy it and go from there.
“Just enjoying myself and enjoying football brought out the best in me, in a way, where I was relaxed and could show what I could do.
“I didn’t really think of it as a last-chance moment or anything. I felt it was an opportunity.
“I spent three weeks on trial in the end training and I played three or four full 90 minutes. Then [under-23 boss] Kevin Nugent pulled me aside and said, ‘we’ll be offering you a deal’.
“I was buzzing about that, it was good news to share. It all worked out perfectly in the end.”
Moss joined in the summer of 2019 and went on to captain Nugent’s under-23 side. He signed a new deal in the summer before heading out on a season-long loan to Yeovil, where he has become a regular in Darren Sarll’s team.
“I’ve played every game so far at right-back,” Moss continues. “During my time at Burnley I played in a few different positions. During my scholarship I was centre-mid, centre-back when I was a bit younger.
“But I’ve found myself at right-back now and I’m enjoying it. You get a bit of everything in that position.
“It suits my game, I’ve got a lot of energy and good fitness to get up and down and join in with everything I can.
“I’ve always been the type of player that’s very competitive, a physical player and I like to get stuck in.
“Coming to the National League, I prepared for it and I was ready for it. But you still get that shock of how intense and physical it is.
“But I’m loving every minute of it, it’s a very good learning curve. I’m really, really enjoying it.”
Off the pitch, Moss has also had to learn quickly.
He explains: “I moved into a players’ house, there are four of us here. At Millwall I was in digs with a host family. It sounds silly but they would sort your food out and if you’re lucky like I was they sort out your washing so you don’t have to do so much around the house!
“But in the players’ house you have to sort out your cooking, washing-up, your clothes washing. That was the biggest shock of all! But you soon get into the swing of things.
“The lads are all part of the first-team squad. They’re top lads so it’s been really enjoyable.
“It’s my first senior loan and it’s just about getting to grips with everything, living so far away from home.
“It’s just a massive life learning experience. I’m taking it all in my stride.
“I’ve had a few phone calls with Kevin Nugent and [assistant manager] Paul Robinson from the 23s. My games get sent to them, they watch them and we’ll have a chat on the phone. It’s just a bit of everything on the call to check in and see how I am.
“We’ll go over all the football side of things and we also have a little chat at the end about how it is living on your own, cooking your own food.
“Me and Nuge have had a few chats on what to cook! My go-to is a stir-fry but the boys here are a bit bored of that now so I’ll have to start adding a few dishes to my menu.”
Moss has Danny McNamara as an example to follow of another right-back who worked his way up the loan ladder and into Millwall’s first team.
Senior boss Gary Rowett has said every loan is with a view to the player eventually challenging to get into his team.
That is encouragment for Moss.
“Definitely, it’s something you’re working for,” he says. “That’s the aim at the end of the day, to get into your club’s first team.
“Every day is a learning experience so you’ve got to take it all on board.
“I look at [McNamara’s] journey, he went on a few loans and each time he stepped up another level and then he got his chance in the Millwall first team.
“It’s something you look up to and you hope it will happen to you one day. I’m just taking each day as it comes and trying to improve as a player every week.
“We played eight games in October so that was something totally new to the system, it’s just game after game after game, but I’m loving it.
“It can only be good for me. It’s a totally different games programme to the under-23s. It’s been a bit tough on the legs at times but you get through it and you look forward to the next game every time.”
It’s pointed out to Moss that he appears to have the character needed to succeed.
“It’s just speaking with experienced people at Millwall and just even family as well,” he modestly replies. “At the end of the day, just enjoy it, it’s a good opportunity and you know you’ve got what it takes to play in [National League].
“I’ve always just had that in me to fight, whatever comes at me, to get through it.”
Main image: Mike Kunz