In football, timing is everything, particularly for a young player taking their first steps in the professional game.

At so many clubs, talented prospects fall through the cracks. Sometimes, they don't develop as expected. In other scenarios, it's injuries or circumstances beyond everyone's control. Even the wrong loan, at the wrong time.

So much has to be right for a young player to cut the mustard at first-team level. Self-belief, when others have doubted you, is crucial too.

At Blackburn Rovers, young players get their opportunity more than most. The club has an Academy that is the beating heart of the football club and remains their most valuable asset. But even they can not take everyone along on the journey. Not everyone can make it.

Georgie Gent was at a crossroads last summer. Whilst many of the emerging Under-21 prospects were bumped up to the first-team for pre-season training, he was split off, with others that Rovers were prepared to let go of, either on loan or permanently.

Whilst a 30-man squad headed off to Austria, Gent had to find an alternative route to the first team. That came across the border, at Motherwell.

"It was a bit of a weird situation," he recalls in an exclusive interview with The Lancashire Telegraph.

"We were looking at going out on loan and split off from the rest of the group which was strange.

"I forgot about it, to be honest, and I got my head down. Got the move up to Scotland which I needed. I wasn't thinking much about Blackburn and I wanted to focus on myself."

This was Gent's first senior loan and it did not come without its challenges. As well as off-field obstacles, like learning how to cook for himself, game time was limited at the start.

This was a huge transition. Playing for the Under-21s is important for development but he was in at the deep end now. Paying crowds, a real first-team environment where livelihoods were made. Sink or swim time.


"I had to be patient at the start," he admits. 

"I didn't play as much as I wanted to but I stayed patient and around December I broke in, got my first start and I haven't looked back since.

"It was tough, I'll be honest. I had personal, family things going on too, off the pitch and then you're not playing. I stuck up, showed the right attitude in training and I got my chance.

"It was St Johnstone at home and I stayed in the team from then. I can't thank Motherwell enough, the staff, the players and the fans have put an arm around me from day one.

"It was vital for me to go out, I think it was the right move. My family, my agent and me, we wanted to come up here and do the loan.

"It was very important for the next step in my career. That's what I needed, first-team football and being in that environment every week. Getting myself out there and playing in front of crowds.

"I think this has played a massive part in the next step of my career. When you play Under-21s, there isn't the same fight for three points, there is less jeopardy."

As the season progressed, so did Gent's stature. After 158 league minutes up until December, Gent has played 85 minutes or more in 17 of the last 20 matches.

The 20th of January is a day that will always live long in the memory, his first senior goal: "A feeling I'll never forget, in the cup against Alloa. A special feeling for me and a moment I've waited for. That feeling will never leave me."

At this stage of Gent's journey, developing the intangible qualities needed to be a footballer were equal to skills on the pitch. The culture of first-team football, adapting to a new environment. Real pressure.

"It's been a great experience for me. I came to Motherwell first of all to try and get myself out there, have a taste of first-team football," he says.

"I've felt very comfortable. It's given me the confidence to show what I can do. I came in as an Under-21s player, a shy lad, to be honest. They've shown me the route and being in that first-team environment, how they train, preparation, feedback, it's helped me learn so much.

"It took a few weeks to get used to, playing for points, playing for something tangible. I've absolutely loved it.

"I'll be taking this experience with me and it's made me a better player and a better person, on and off the pitch.

"It's developed me as a man as well. I was used to my mum doing everything at home for me. I've grown up a lot off the pitch./

"Learning how to cook, living away from home. I keep it simple, chicken and pasta!"

Gent has never been averse to taking the longer route around. He started his career at the Manchester City Academy but quickly accepted that there was not a pathway for him.

At Rovers, there was. A clear example of success and how players can thrive in their environment. He joined in 2019 before signing his first professional deal in April 2022, a three-year deal taking him up to 2025.

"I had some very good days. It's one of the best academies that there is in the world, I learned a lot on the ball," Gent says on Man City.

"It made me a better player but you have to be realistic. I had to see elsewhere, it's a tough pathway there. I thought Rovers was the best move for me and I have developed so much there.

"I saw the pathway at City and it was hard, they spend a lot of money on external players. I wanted to be realistic with myself and I knew Rovers were good with their youth players.

"You've seen with Adam Wharton going through. It's vital for young players to see that pathway. So many brilliant players have come through and I've played with a lot of them. 

"Ash Phillips and Adam have made massive Premier League moves. It's vital for players to see that."

Motherwell have already publicly touted for Gent to return next season. He's a player that has made a big impression and they would love to get him back.

But Rovers will have a big say in what is next for the 20-year-old. It can't go unnoticed that there is a clear vacancy as understudy at left-back. A chance for someone to, perhaps, grab it with both hands.

Ben Chrisene has returned to Aston Villa. Jake Batty found the transition tougher than perhaps expected last season under Tomasson, a reminder that a footballer's development is not linear.

Could Rovers look within, as they so often do? It's hardly out of the question with an impressive pre-season. It's all about...

"This whole loan has been about kicking on and I always back myself," Gent says.

"I tried to prove the gaffer wrong and Jon's left now, John Eustace is in charge now. I'll try to impress him and see what happens.

"I will go back and try to work hard to get into the squad and team. We all know Harry Pickering is a fantastic player.

"I will be doing my own thing and I hope to get there. It's given me a lot of hunger to stay in this first-team football environment. I've got even more drive and desire to further my career."