‘It’s very surreal: Durham’s Jonny Giles becomes a professional footballer

I didn’t even know who I was playing against


Jonny GIles, who graduated from Durham this summer, has just netted his first professional football contract.

Playing for Oxford United, Jonny has traded summatives and exams for time on the pitch.

Having graduated last year, Jonny spoke to us about his recent debut win and infamous DUAFC socials.

How did you feel stepping onto the pitch yesterday for your first professional game?

[Jonnny played in the reserve team’s match on Tuesday, coming onto the pitch for the last ten minutes. The final score was 4-2 to Oxford United]

It was a weird feeling. The best game I’ve had this summer was when I was trialling for Oxford. I played for the reserves against a really good Southampton side which had like six internationals playing for them. It was pretty cool to think that I get paid to do this.

How was the match against Southampton?

Southampton went well. It was a tough game but we lost 2-1. Considering the opposition we played really well. The Southampton game had Rodriguez, who has played for England and Steven Caulker who had scored a goal for England.

Was it especially nervewracking knowing they were the opposition?

I’m notoriously bad with my football knowledge so I didn’t actually know who I was playing against – which was good for me because I just treated it like any other trial game.

I only found out afterwards who they were when my teammates were saying their names and I texted my mates to ask who they were.

What was the process like to get your trial for Oxford?

A lot of things had to fall into place for me to get the trial. My uni coach got me my first trial at another club, where I met a guy who introduced me to his agent who then became my agent also.

My agent Dan and his company FullContact got me trials at a few places – including Oxford!

Sounds like a lot of steps to get that lucky break. Was it hard fitting sport around studying and having a social life while you were in Durham?

I went out the same amount as everyone else, missed a load of lectures but crammed massively towards the end and got the result – same as everyone else.

Physics is a geeky subject but there were a couple of groups of people who I sat with who had a similar view of the subject: that it wasn’t everything. They played sport or went out loads and we kind of helped each other when it came to the deadlines, reports and revision and all went well.

I had the best group of friends who helped me out along the way as well. DUAFC was the best club. Made a load of great friends over my three years, some are still at Durham.

What were the DUAFC socials like – have you got any interesting stories of them?

DUAFC socials were great – every Wednesday. Depending on what time we finished our games we’d usually tour the college bars wearing the club tie on a normal night.

Then social secs organised themed nights as well and some joint ones with lacrosse or netball. My favourite was our promotional social in my first year which was just chaos basically.

One funny story I can think of is that one of my friends on his initiation got put into a police van for pissing near the cathedral. He got taken home then he changed his clothes and came back out.

Another one is that we were all standing on the tables in Jimmys singing a song and one too many people got on it and we broke the table.

Looks like you had a fantastic time at Durham – do you miss it?

Yeah, definitely. I was supposed to be doing a fourth year this year but I dropped down to a three year course as it would be more likely that I would get a 2:1 if I did that, because of the way each course is weighted. Luckily it worked.

I definitely am going to miss it more and more, especially when pictures start cropping up from my friends who are still there. All the football boys have gone back up for preseason which I always really enjoyed, apart from all the running.

So I’m also jealous of the year that you guys have got in store! But definitely not missing the work!

How do you feel having achieved something that many football lovers dream about?

It’s very surreal. I just hope I can carve my own path and work hard to make the most of it!

The future is looking bright for Jonny and he is looking forward to the future.

Jonny said: “The next couple of months, when the dust has settled, is now about my own personal improvement and getting used to the standard of football.”

“Hopefully after training every day I will improve and hopefully I’ll break into the first team eventually.”