THESE are early days and it is still far too soon to rush to judgement – but all the available evidence suggests Dayle Grubb was right to turn his back on a career in education in order to pursue a long-held ambition to be a full-time professional footballer.
Just a few short weeks ago, the 25-year-old was earning a living as a PE teacher and supplementing his wage by turning out for home-town club Weston-super-Mare in the Vanarama National League South.
But then Forest Green Rovers came calling and Grubb, fired up by a fervent desire to prove himself after failing to make the grade as an Academy player at Bristol City, opted to take the plunge.
The decision to leave a steady job in Weston and embark upon a full-time career in the uncertain world of professional sport represented a risk of sorts. Yet Grubb, having waited so long for such an opportunity to present itself, is in no doubt that he has done the right thing.
“I didn’t think twice. There was no hesitation when Forest Green came in for me,” revealed Grubb, who penned an 18-month contract when moving to The New Lawn on January 1.
“I’d always wanted to be a professional footballer from the day I joined Bristol City as a kid. It’s just that, the way things worked out, I had to wait longer than most for my chance.
“Playing in a professional club’s academy is not for everyone and, for whatever reason, I was one of those who had to take a step back before he was able to move forwards again.
“I dropped down the levels to play for Weston, but never lost the belief that I could play in the Football League one day. As soon as I heard Forest Green were interested, I said to myself ‘go for it’. I already knew what I wanted to do.
“Some players have a career outside of football, make a good living playing non-League and become comfortable with that. It was different for me. I always wanted to prove myself at the highest level possible.”
Ryan Harley was another who initially struggled to make a breakthrough at Bristol City and, like Grubb, opted to re-launch his career amid the humble environs of Weston’s Woodspring Stadium.
Harley’s second coming was impressive and he went on to forge a successful career in The Championship with Brighton and Hove Albion before settling in at League Two promotion hopefuls Exeter.
If Grubb’s intention is to emulate Harley, he is already making a decent fist of things. Determined to make a good first impression on the occasion of his first home start, the attacking midfielder announced himself with a brace of goals and an assist as Forest Green trounced Cambridge United 5-2 to register their biggest win of the season at the New Lawn recently.
League Two defenders will now be aware of him and bigger challenges lie ahead before he can claim to have made it in the professional game. But it is already abundantly clear why Rovers manager Mark Cooper was prepared to take a gamble on a player who had hitherto plied his trade two divisions lower in the pyramid.
A prolific goal-scorer during his time at Weston, Grubb has a natural poacher’s instinct. He is not a striker in the conventional sense, rather a No.10 who is most comfortable playing between the opposition lines and making penetrating runs from deep-lying positions.
An elusive runner, he is able to time his arrival in the penalty area to perfection and, perhaps more importantly, has the confidence to shoot from just about any position.
Rovers’ top-scorer Christian Doidge is already benefiting from Grubb’s presence. The two combined tellingly for Grubb to net his first League goal against Cambridge and there are already clear signs that the pair are building an understanding.
Throw new signing Reuben Reid into the mix and it becomes possible to envisage Forest Green scoring sufficient goals to haul themselves clear of the relegation zone between now and the end of the season.
Reid, Doidge and Grubb appear to complement one another well and their continued fitness and good form are likely to prove pivotal in determining the Gloucestershire club’s fate in the challenging weeks and months to come.