Many foreign players have been recruited from overseas and successfully carved out a career in the English game, of course for every high profile individual who makes a name for himself there are countless others who fall short of the standards and strengths required to make it here in England.
One such player, who was brought to this country from his homeland Germany at the tender age of 17, was midfielder/striker Sebastien Kneissl.
Having begun as a youth player at KSG Mitlechtern (no never heard of them), FC 07 Bensheim (nor them) and finally Eintracht Frankfurt’s Under 18 side (yes at last), young Kneissl registered on the radar of Premier League Chelsea, courtesy of their European scouting network, and was signed on a pre-contract agreement for three years by the Londoners in 2000.
Blue was the colour for young Kneissl.
Ironically the announcement of the signing was made just two days after UEFA had stated that they wanted to stop players in Under-18 teams from being signed by foreign clubs. It was a coup for Chelsea as Ajax, Lazio, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich (no mention of Wivenhoe Town yet !), were all monitoring his situation.
He stayed at Stamford Bridge for five years and failed to make any League appearances for the club under Claudio Ranieri, who had not included him in the first team squad and did not even get to train with the first team. At the time Kneissl said “It’s very difficult at Chelsea, but you never say never in football. A lot of players at the club are looking to go out on loan and I’m ready to play if selected”.
Shortly afterwards Kneissl himself went out on loan to Scottish side Dundee for a season long loan. Of the move he said “Ranieri doesn’t like the reserve players training with his first team squad of 25 and that’s why I’ve joined Dundee to play regularly and hopefully score a few goals. I’ve played 13 (reserve) games this season and scored 12 goals. I played a couple of first team games for Chelsea in pre-season, but not competitively”.
In the end he figured in 11 league games for the Dens Park club, scoring a single goal against Celtic.
A further loan spell in 2004-05 saw him move to Belgian club Westerlo, where he made 10 league appearances
He ended his disappointing spell at Chelsea in 2005 having never threatened to break into the first team under either Ranieri or Jose Mourinho and returned to his home country, the former youth international moved to Wacker Burghausen in the Third Division of the Bundesliga. Over two years he made 33 appearances (4) goals before joining Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2007 to play 13 games, scoring twice.
In September of that year he returned to England hoping to ignite dreams of a successful career in this country, signing for AFC Wimbledon.
At the time he said “I was quite unlucky there (Chelsea) because three times I was on the verge of getting in the first team. The last time I got really close, Ranieri told me I’d get a few games that season, but seven days later Abramovich bought the club and Ranieri told me he couldn’t give any young players a chance, because he needed to win titles quickly. It’s understandable.”
His dream quickly faded as he left The Dons after only one game in September 2007.
The seemingly plausible ‘Richard Carter’ then persuaded Kneissl that the path to glory originated from Broad Lane, Wivenhoe and amazingly he signed for The Dragons in December 2007. The club were still competing in Division One of the Ryman League, although relegation to the Eastern Counties League was to follow at the end of the season, and we were struggling at the bottom end of the League.
The manager was seemingly intent on signing and releasing as many players as possible, with new faces turning up weekly as others left. Sebastien made his one and only appearance for the club when he came off the substitutes bench at Wingate & Finchley in January 2008. The game was noteworthy as it was the sides first away win of the season as goals from Michael Brothers and Ryan Lockett secured a vital 2-0 win in front of a crowd of 175.
Despite playing a minor role in this landmark game for the club his services were not retained, either that or he realised that Wivenhoe Town was not the platform from which to re-launch a career in the game.
Upon leaving the club he re-surfaced back in Germany, signing for SpVgg Weiden in July 2008, before moving to FC Schweinfurt after 18 games. He stayed here for 4 years playing on 94 occasions, scoring 16 league goals. The 2013-14 season was spent at SV Heimstetten, before he retired from the playing side of the game.
Unfortunately the promise of his formative years in football never materialised.
With thanks to Richard Greenfield for contributing this article