SOLLY MARCH so easily could have been lining up for Newcastle instead of Brighton today — had he not FAINTED.
The Seagulls winger was a 17-year-old earning a modest crust at non-league Lewes when Alan Pardew invited him for a trial in the North East.
But as he was travelling to Toon’s training ground in a car with dad Steve, he had a sudden blackout.
He told SunSport: “I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was nerves, but I just got ill.
“I was in the car going up there in the morning and I just passed out. I didn’t sleep well the night before because I was nervous. And it just happened.
“It was bizarre. It only lasted a few seconds but I had to cancel the trial. I was gutted.”
But that freak morning ended up being a blessing in disguise.
Eastbourne-raised March, 23, added: “I was supposed to go back up there for another trial but, by that time, Brighton came in for me.
“It was the right thing to come here with me being a local boy.
“They were just coming up at the time from League One into the Championship and there was more chance of me breaking through here than at Newcastle, who were a big Premier League club.”
March will not be experiencing any butterflies ahead of Toon’s visit to the Amex this afternoon.
He laughed: “I won’t be passing out this time. I’m used to it.
“You do feel nerves a little bit but I just treat a game like this as I would any training session.”
And while he could have been playing for Newcastle, March also had the chance to be a professional cricketer instead. He was — and still is — a good No 4 batsman.
He said: “I played for Hellingly, a team just down the road. Quite a few professionals came through from there and I enjoyed it and still do.
“I came in at No 4 and I was decent. Although I have been mainly interested in football, I could do both.
“I was a big fan of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff. I went to Australia for The Ashes in 2006.”
March, like Jamie Vardy at Leicester, is one of only a few players in the Premier League to have come through non-league.
And he reckons his time at the fantastically-named Dripping Pan, home of Lewes, gave him the best grounding.
The midfielder said: “It’s good to remember where you came from as it makes you appreciate it more.
“When you look at the likes of Vardy, it makes you hungry. There are definitely quality players out there in non-league. They just need to be spotted at the right time.
“Maybe top clubs need to send more scouts to watch more games.
“The talent is there, but maybe some of the players there need to believe more in themselves.”
March admits if Huddersfield’s example of closing down their youth academy is followed, it will make it tougher for young talent to flourish.
He said: “Championship clubs will probably keep theirs, but it’s not good for the game if other Premier League clubs do what Huddersfield have done.”
Brighton are just five games into their first-ever season in the Prem and March already says he never wants to drop out of the top flight.
He added: “I want to play as well as I can and spend the rest of my career in the Premier League. It would be great if Brighton stay up.” March is a quick learner and he has already noticed the massive differences between the Premier League and Championship.
He said: “Mentally it’s different — as too is the physical sharpness.
“These players see things quicker and pick up quicker, so it’s hard to make the sort of runs you are able to make in the Championship. They see it early. It’s definitely tougher.”
After defeats by Manchester City and Leicester, Seagulls got a point at Watford before beating West Brom 3-1 at the Amex.
They were also very unfortunate to lose 2-1 at Bournemouth in their last league game after March had given Brighton the lead.
But he believes his team-mates are quickly adapting to top-flight life.
He said: “Obviously the first two or three weeks were tough but the West Brom win was massive.
“It was disappointing losing at Bournemouth last week but if we can get a win over Newcastle, that will get us back on track.
“People backed us from day one to go down so we’re trying hard to prove them wrong. Hopefully we can do that by the end of the season.”
March celebrated promotion from the Championship by getting engaged and is planning to marry next summer. He admitted: “Brighton staying in the Premier League will be the perfect wedding gift.”