IT IS 10 years since I first met Adnan Ahmed, when he was making a name for himself at Huddersfield Town.

Having progressed through the ranks to break into the first team, the midfielder had just played in the FA Cup for the then League One side in a 2-1 defeat against Premiership champions Chelsea He was one of only a handful of Asian men playing professional football. Others were Michael Chopra, Harpal Singh and Zesh Rehman.

At the time he noted that the production line was showing promising signs. He felt there was a gradual change and that more would follow in their footsteps.

But a decade down the line Ahmed admits that has not proved to be the case.

“I think it’s gone backwards drastically to be honest,” he said.

“I do school visits quite regularly and the kids don’t have a clue what it takes to make it.

“It’s not that they’re not playing it, they don’t know what to do to progress and that’s a key element.

“Football’s a much-loved sport among Asians, it’s just that they’re playing five-a-side with their mates thinking that’s going to be enough for them to make it.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are you’re never going to get spotted like that.”

It is, Ahmed says, hard to pinpoint where the fault lies, but feels better education – on all sides of the process – would be a start.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a fault but there is a void in the system somewhere,” Ahmed continued.

“There is an element of (a problem with the scouting system), but at the moment there’s not enough numbers playing Sunday League. I think that’s the first barrier that needs to be met – get more participation at grassroots and that’s where the big problem is at the moment.

“When I was playing I was the only Asian boy.

“Every team we used to play against it was still only me.

“My nephew’s playing now and when I go to watch him there’s only one or two other Asian players playing, so it’s not rocket science. From nine to 14 there’s not enough numbers. There’s not enough players playing, so it’s not looking good in that sense.”

Ahmed, who was with Manchester United as a youngster until 1999, when he joined Huddersfield Town’s Academy, added: “There’s a gap where academies need to get into Asian areas to just let the boys know what it takes.

“If they do that they’ve got a chance. It doesn’t mean they’ll make it but it gives them a chance to push on.”

Ahmed has plans to change the mindset, but with his work and own football commitments with Nelson, he admits they are long-term.

“I’m looking to set up an academy to highlight that it doesn’t matter what race you are but you’ve got to give yourself the best chance,” he said.

“Speaking to a lot of the Asian boys I see at school they literally don’t have a clue what it involves, so in another four or five years hopefully I can set up an academy and roll it out in other cities.

“It helps people get off the street as well.

“In Nelson and Brierfield areas the Asian youths are into the wrong things so football will be a good thing to get on the right path.

“It’s all about education and football, if you put them both together it can work.”

But modest Ahmed baulks at the word legacy.

“I’ve never been pretentious or wanted to do it for fame so I don’t see it as a legacy. I just want to help as much as I can,” said the 31-year-old, who has returned for his second spell with Nelson in the North West Counties League and is in the squad for this afternoon’s home game with Bootle.

Ahmed admits he still has the potential to play higher, perhaps even back in the Football League. But after spells with Huddersfield, Tranmere and further afield with Hungarian side Ferencvaros, where he was teammates with Burnley’s Matt Lowton, and Iranian club Aboomoslem, he felt it was time to settle down and focus on two of his other passions – family and business, with both intertwined.

“I’m just concentrating full time on business with my dad’s company Sweet Dreams, which although is a local one from Burnley it’s nationwide and we have got accounts in Europe as well so it’s not like it’s a small operation, it’s a big operation,” said Ahmed, who is operating director of the bedroom furniture company.

“Because it’s a family business you’re kind of learning all the fields.

"I’m mirroring my dad and learning from his experience.

“That was always the plan, and it’s worked out perfectly for me.”

More so since starting a family of his own.

“I’m married now with a son, so that changes things,” he continued.

“That’s what drives me now. I want my boy to see me play.

“That’s the key motivation as well.

“I can play higher now because I keep myself fit and enjoy staying fit.

“I know a lot of ex pros who say once they finish that’s it and they never get back into shape again. But I enjoy staying in shape, you feel better, and the fitter you are your mind’s more active so that helps with work.

“I’m confident I can play higher and if I wanted to I think I could push it and play in the League. But I’m enjoying doing what I’m doing.

“The situation now for me is bread and butter and the more important thing for me is to stay in the business and move on to other aspects.”

Like his proposed academy for young Asian footballers, for example.

“I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment but I’ve got a plan in mind.

“Once you’re learning in business you realise the structures you need to have in place, it’s not just a case of getting a pitch and asking for kids to come and play, you’ve got to have a proper system in place to do this kind of stuff.

“It is extremely tough to make it in professional football. It’s only 0.001 per cent of the population that do.

“But I just want to be able to give something back.”