Aussie teen's red tape nightmare mars Premier League chance of a lifetime

Talented Australian teenager Oscar Woods is determined to kick on after his two-year spell with Premier League club Burnley was blighted by paperwork issues.

Woods, who was born and raised in Brisbane, signed with the Clarets’ academy at the age of just 15 in July 2017.

But he had to wait nearly 18 months for his international clearance to come through, as wrangling between FIFA, the Football Association and FFA, blocking his debut for the club’s Under-23s until November last year.

The central midfielder was limited to training and friendly matches until his clearance arrived, giving him few chances to impress before his scholarship contract ended this month.

But Woods has loved his time at Turf Moor and now wants to push on and keep his European football dream alive.

“I’ve loved every minute of it, it’s been unbelievable,” he told The World Game.

“Coming from Australia where football’s not as big as it is here in the UK,  to see the top facilities and to taking part in a full-time program as well as doing the education alongside of it. I was very lucky to get that opportunity and it’s been great.

“From the Under-18s up you’re basically in and around the first-team, so it’s a great environment to be in. I’ve learned a lot from being around them.”

Woods grew up in the Queensland capital playing for Kenmore, Brisbane Force and the Western Pride. He moved to Spain with his family, because of his father’s job, in 2015 before they relocated to England.

The rising star trialed with Burnley and won a contract as a second-year scholar. He was one of a number of Australians on the Clarets books, along with young goalkeeper Kai Calderbank-Park and on-loan Central Coast Mariners midfielder Aiden O’Neill.

The 17-year-old admits being forced to sit on the sidelines while his international clearance was sorted was a difficult pill to swallow.

“The FIFA, the FA and the FFA, they try to stop people moving to the UK just to play football,” he said.

“We basically had to show them the reasons why we were in the country. That I wasn’t just there for football, I was there for my dad’s work. I was just lucky enough to get the opportunity at Burnley.

“It was really tough because I couldn’t play any games. It was really difficult. It took a long time but it was worth the wait.”

Woods is now a free agent and on the lookout for a new club. The midfielder preferably wants to stay in England or continental Europe, but has also had interest from Australian clubs.

“I haven’t been offered a new contract at Burnley so my last week of training is this week,” he said.

“I was really disappointed, I was hoping I’d get another year’s contract or so but it wasn’t to be. I am thankful for my time there.

“There’s a lot of opportunities coming my way so I have to keep working hard and see what I can make of them.”

Woods, who can play at right back as well as in the centre of midfield, turns 18 in August.

The taste of Premier League life in Lancashire has only whet the blond-haired teenager’s appetite to make a career in England.

“Definitely, I’ve seen what it’s like now and I’ve seen the level I have to get to,” he said.

“I’ve been around the players and witnessed firsthand their professionalism, I know what I need to do and what I need to improve. It has definitely motivated me.

“I’ve got a few options. I’ve got the option to stay in the UK and to play in Europe, or to go back home. Or even to go to colleges in America.

“It’s really to make decisions on these opportunities. Mostly in the UK and Australia I’ve got some options, so I just need to make a decision on that. Hopefully I can sign a professional contract at the end of this season.

“With the amount of matches I’ve had in the past two years with the international clearance issues, I haven’t been able to get as many games as I’d like. So maybe another season playing Under-23s football would benefit me. But if I had the opportunity to go with a first-team, that would be ideal.”