WANDERERS forward Dapo Afolayan has opened up about his unique path into professional football.

The forward joined Chelsea’s academy at the age of eight after catching the eye of a scout while playing for a junior team.

However, very few young players make it to the top and setbacks are common, as Afolayan learned aged 14.

“My Chelsea age group was very good,” he told BBC Sport. “There’s Tammy Abraham, Dom Solanke, Chris Mepham - we had one of the golden generations.

“When I was about 14, the Premier League wanted to get more contact time with the players, which meant for a lot of the lads moving from home.

“I was approaching my GCSEs. The idea of what the Premier League wanted to do was good but the execution wasn’t the best and my parents saw that, so they wanted me to stay.

“I remember being quite upset about it, watching most of my age group winning the UEFA youth leagues, the FA Youth Cup.”

But Afolayan’s decision to focus on his studies paid off and he went on to study civil engineering at university.

During his time there, the forward’s footballing career took an unexpected turn.

“It was really tough, especially balancing it with football,” he added. “I was just playing for fun while doing my education and was thinking about getting a job to help me through uni.

“The director of football called me in and told me Solihull Moors had put in a request for me. That spell at Solihull, I’ll never forget it because it was really good for my development.”

Afolayan impressed at non-league level and it wasn’t long before he was attracting interest from the Premier League.

In 2018, the forward completed a dream move to West Ham and was determined to make the most of his second chance.

The Bolton News: Afolayan celebrates his first goal for West HamAfolayan celebrates his first goal for West Ham

“Coming into the January transfer window, I kind of knew there was a bit of a buzz,” said Afolayan. “I was the third-top goalscorer in the league but we were rock bottom at the time.

“On deadline day, my agent told me West ham were having a meeting about me. Then I got a phone call saying drive down to London.

“We were all in shock, to come that far in a short space of time for me was big.”

The forward made an immediate impact for the Hammers, scoring on his debut in an FA Cup tie against Doncaster.

He recalled: “I remember being on the bench with Declan Rice, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell. The manager (David Moyes) ended up calling me over to come on.

“I remember saying to the boys, ‘I’m so nervous’. I saw Ryan Fredericks running down the right and I was screaming for the ball.

“He decided to have a shot and the keeper’s palmed it right into my path and I just tapped it in. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

“At that moment I was thinking about all the hard work and how far I’d come. I’ll never forget it.”

However, things didn’t work out for Afolayan at West Ham and he was given the chance to sign for Wanderers earlier this year.

The forward recalled meeting with Ian Evatt and being impressed by the Bolton boss’ long-term vision for the club.

He added: “I’m 24 now and I wanted to play regular first-team football.

“Bolton Wanderers and Ian Evatt came and spoke to me - told me about the club, the project and what they wanted to achieve.

“Once I’d spoke to the manager, it was pretty easy for me to make that decision.”