Eight years ago, Matt Jarvis achieved a boyhood dream when he pulled on the famous Three Lions shirt for the first time in front of an almost sell-out crowd at Wembley.
Fast forward to the present day and the livewire winger finds himself without a club after going through what he describes as the toughest couple of years of his life.
Jarvis, 33, has spent much of the last two-and-half-years on the sidelines, as injury threatened to end his career during his spell with Norwich.
He started like a house on fire having moved to Carrow Road from West Ham, scoring on his league debut against Bournemouth and then against West Bromwich Albion in the Carabao Cup.
But the start of what would prove to be a nightmare few years came in a clash with Manchester City in October 2015.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, Jarvis revealed how his injury hell began.
“I’m absolutely gutted about how it went at Norwich,” Jarvis says. “When I signed there, it was the fittest I’d ever been.
“We played Manchester City away and we were doing really well. I’d nearly scored just before and then the ball came to me, I was just running after it, and Yaya Toure slid in to tackle me and I went into a block tackle with him.
“I have no idea why I’ve did that. Of all the people to block tackle, he’s probably not one of them – and I did my medial ligament.
“Unfortunately, from that, it’s been an absolute nightmare.
“I rehabbed it and got back playing in the normal allocated time and then I played for the rest of the season, but it was never quite right. Then I had an operation and it wasn’t right as my medial wasn’t really attached properly and I had to get it repaired.
“I worked extremely hard to get myself back fully fit.
“And then I got smashed in training on my ankle, and because I’d been out for so long I tried to carry on, but it just got worse and worse. I eventually had to have an operation on that and when they opened me up, they found there was a lot more than was on my scan.
“I then had a long rehab back from that, which took eight months, and then while I had the two operations on the right side, I picked up ITB syndrome (iliotibial friction syndrome). As a player injured, you’re sitting in the gym watching the other players train and it is a horrible feeling,”
Such an extensive period on the sidelines would undoubtedly affect any footballer, and Jarvis was no different as he ended up questioning whether he would ever set foot on a football pitch again.
He continues: “A lot has been said about mental health in football. Coming back from my ankle, I broke down many times.
“I used to go back, sit on the sofa and absolutely cry my eyes out.
“I allow myself a day-and-a-half to be down and then that’s it. You’ve got to stay strong and keep doing the things you’re told to do.
“While I was going through all of this, my son was born and he provided another reason to completely focus on getting back fit so he could watch me play football.”
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His consistent injury problems meant Jarvis never got the opportunity to play under Daniel Farke, and he had to agonisingly watch on from afar as the German guided Norwich to the Championship title last season.
By the time the 33-year-old had returned to full fitness, he was out of the picture at Carrow Road and was forced to make a temporary loan switch to Walsall, with whom he made a much welcome return to action in the second half of the campaign.
Despite not getting the opportunity to play under the likeable Farke, Jarvis had nothing but positive words for the German and backed him to be a success in the Premier League.
“Farke was brilliant for me,” Jarvis adds. “I would have loved to have played for him.
“When he first came in, it was so different to what the club and I were used to. He changed everything; the way training was, the timings, the days off.
“Speaking just for me, he talked to me whenever I was walking past or if he came into the physio room or the gym.
“We spoke regularly. He was always there asking how things were going and when I thought I’d be back training as he always said I was a player he thought would work really well in his squad. I’m gutted it didn’t work out for us.”
Many will remember the one-cap England international from his time with Wolves, where he enjoyed so much success on the pitch.
Brought in by Mick McCarthy after impressing for Gillingham, Jarvis went on to be a crucial part of the Wolves side which claimed 2008/09 Championship title by some seven points.
He remained at Molineux after promotion, popping up with some important goals to help Wolves maintain their Premier League status for two consecutive seasons, and the 33-year-old is thankful to McCarthy for making him the player he is today.
“I think he probably had the biggest impact on my career,” explains Jarvis. “That was the biggest education I had.
“Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor worked with me on the training pitch every day. I was getting taught things in my position that I didn’t know and they then helped me to mix my game up and keep the defenders guessing which helped me to play at Premier League level.”
On his time at Wolves, Jarvis added: “I absolutely loved my time there and have really fond memories. Those achievements – getting promoted as champions and staying in the Premier League for the following years – were incredible. The group of players we had when we went up were a joy to work with.
“This season they’ve been outstanding. I don’t think anyone thought they’d finish as high as they have. They’ve overachieved.
“I’ve watched them a few times this season and they’ve dominated games and played teams off the park. The players they’ve got are exceptional.”
In the 2010/11 campaign, Jarvis was named Wolves’ Player of the Year and he was rewarded with the phone call he always dreamed of – the one notifying him of an England call-up,
He made his international debut – and what proved to be his only appearance for the Three Lions – against Ghana at Wembley on March 29, 2011.
Jarvis says: “We played Aston Villa away the day before and we’d won 1-0, and I had scored. I drove home that day and then on the Sunday night, because we were back in on the Monday, I drove back up.
“As I walked through the door, I got into the kitchen and I’d got a text on my phone from the FA saying I’d been selected. I was having to take a second glance and thinking that someone was winding me up.
“It’s a boyhood dream. I think playing for your country is the pinnacle.
“I’m so fortunate my cap was at Wembley in front of 85,000 fans and all my family and friends were there. Everyone messaged me and said, ‘I was there!’ I’m very fortunate that was my game and playing for your country is the best.
“The kit man was brilliant to me as after the game he got Asamoah Gyan’s (Ghana’s goalscorer in the 1-1 draw) shirt. So I’ve got my shirt signed by all the players, his shirt, and a little plaque. It’s perfect.”
So, what lies next for Jarvis?
Without a club following his release from Norwich, Jarvis is keeping himself in good shape while awaiting a suitable offer.
He combines his time training with running his own academy, aimed at helping the next generation of footballers in his hometown of Guildford.
But walking away from the game he loves so much has not crossed Jarvis’ mind, given all the setbacks he’s overcome to get back playing, and it was his Walsall debut that reinforced his desire to continue with his career.
He adds: “We played Bolton in the cup and within the first ten minutes, I already had an assist and I thought this is the reason why you go through all these dark days. It’s not a job – it’s my livelihood.
“To get back on the pitch and get two assists in that first game was just incredible. I’m looking forward to getting back into it and doing another pre-season and getting some more games.”
On whether he’s held talks with any clubs as of yet, Jarvis concludes: “Not just yet. We’re making sure I can get the right deal. That’s where I need to be right now.
“I’m still 33 so I’m still young and still got a lot of miles left in me. I’m very determined to prove a point.”