ONCE he was a humble student in Huddersfield, trying hard to break into football.
Yaroslav Pikunov lived in digs while studying in the town, but always dreamed of become a professional footballer.
Six clubs rejected him and he went back to his native Russia.
Now, he has a place in the squad at European Champions League club Locomotiv Moscow.
And there's no people more pleased than the staff at Huddersfield New College, where Yaroslav spent a year.
The youngster - still only 18 - studied leisure and tourism while he was with the college's soccer academy.
Academy students, many of them apprentices let go by clubs, get 15 hours' soccer training a week, alongside formal studies.
College principal Philip Forrest said:
"We're really happy with Yaroslav's success and will be watching his progress."
Thirty-one boys and 26 girls are in the academy.
Coaching is by former Manchester City player Paul Futcher and Kevin Ward, a youth coach at Manchester United.
Midfielder Pikunov came to Britain to learn English at Calderdale College in Halifax.
He transferred to the New College at Salendine Nook for the 2001/02 academic year.
Clubs where he had trials included Liverpool, Rangers, Rochdale and Derby. Burnley offered him a contract, but the deal ran into trouble because he is a non-European Union citizen.
Pikunov was signed by Locomotiv last month as a reserve team player.
He came to Britain when only 15 in a trip arranged by his mother, whose job is to organise study visits to England for Russians.
The New College Academy's co-ordinator, Gabriel Mellor, said: "Yaroslav's mother phoned me a couple of weeks ago to ask me to send some paperwork connected with his signing. I was really pleased to hear about it.
"He came to us as a naive young player showing potential and improved immensely.
"He picked up a lot and was very grateful."