Ben Greenhalgh was at “the biggest club in the world” a few years ago. He’s also stood in for one of the biggest players in the football world.
Now he’s at Stenhousemuir readying himself for one of the biggest names in “the biggest footballing country” in the world when Rangers come to town.
But he’s no big-time Charlie. He’s very much got his feet on the ground and ready for the challenge of firing Stenhouseuir into the play-off positions.
Greenhalgh spent a year and a half at Inter Milan after winning reality television show ‘Football’s Next Star’ which earned him a contract with the Italian giants. He could have stayed and played in Serie B and C but returned to the UK to forge a career here which has seen him go from Brighton to Ebbsfleet to Inverness and now, Ochilview.
“Inter won the Champions League while I was there,” he said. “But obviously I wasn’t near that team - it was an enormous gap between the reserves and first team, but it was incredible to be there when they won it. They were the biggest club in the world with Mourinho in charge.
“Since then, they’ve gone downhill, maybe Italian football has too, and I’d decided to play in the biggest football country - the UK.
“It was a great experience for me, but getting towards the end of it I wanted to make a career in the UK but if it meant dropping my standards - which from Inter Milan obviously it is - but I would have to do that to make a career for myself here.
“I spent six months at Calcio Como and had other clubs in Serie C in Italy looking for me but I didn’t want to spend a lifetime in Italy and chose to come back and graft it.”
And it is graft. After trials at Brighton and Birmingham he switched to Ebbsfleet in the Conference to build up his strength before heading north to Inverness where he played for Terry Butcher, but less so with John Hughes, prompting the switch to league one.
“I don’t think I’ll ever shake off the reality TV tag - people will always come on social networks nowadays if they see your name in papers or scoring goals or whatever saying ‘that’s him’ but it doesn’t bother me. Any news is good news. If people think I’ve dropped standards I deal with that, I just keep going.
“I’ve always had that wherever I go - I’ve dropped my standards because I have Inter Milan in my past history but I’m down to earth and can understand I have to do a job wherever I am. I love the game and if I’m not getting games at Inverness I’m very happy to come here and play and take the opportunity to do my best for Stenhousemuir.”
Scott Booth has been delighted with Greenhalgh’s input over the past few weeks and told Heraldsport: “Ben’s been great but as much as his performances have been a boost to the team, with him in the side Sean Higgins has begun to score regularly too and that’s no coincidence. Sometimes you get partnerships that jut click, and they do.”
The on-loan Inverness forward has made a great start to life at Ochilview with two goals in three games, including one against Arbroath where he swivelled around two defender before ferociously thumping the ball into the net - a strike Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud of.
The Real Madrid man, it turns out, is who Greenhalgh aspired to in his younger days, when he wasn’t acting as Alan Shearer and he has stepped into Ronaldo’s shoes in one way at least.
“I’ve seen that Arbroath goal many times in my head and didn’t think I’d pull it off as well as I did but it’s always brilliant to score, that’s my aim really.
“Originally I was a left-winger or on the right cutting in. I’ve been working on this new position recently and getting a little bit bigger for a more physical dimension to my game, and working on hold-up play and finishing and it’s working out
I’ve done body doubling in adverts, I don’t quite fit up to the physical level of Cristiano Ronalo but I have doubled for him, its all good banter and a laugh with the team-mates, if you’re got to take it if you give it out. I’ve not started yet here - I have at the Inverness - and I have seen it here but I’ll start dishing it out in a few weeks.
It’s a good group of lads at Stenhousemuir and even if it’s a part-time league most of the guys in the dressing room have been somewhere or are looking to go somewhere so its good, and everyone is level-headed and there’s a great team spirit and maybe the results haven’t gone our way but we’re a good side and can get some more.”