In his teenage years, Tayshan Hayden-Smith was nicknamed ‘the English Neymar’. Now, at the age of 24, he has a new moniker – ‘the Grenfell guerrilla gardener’.
Hayden-Smith has had trials with several English football teams – including Crystal Palace, Fulham, Newcastle and Watford – and also spent a season in Austria playing for FC Kitzbuhel.
But becoming a dad at 17, losing his mum in his early 20s and the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire have all played a part in him taking a completely different path.
‘The English Neymar’
Hayden-Smith began playing football as a three-year-old at Westway pitches, underneath the A40 flyover and just across the road from where he grew up in west London.
“You couldn’t detach me from a ball, I always had one at my feet,” he tells BBC Sport.
“When I was really small, I had no option but to play on the side of the pitches because they were booked out. So it was a lot of street football, playing wherever I could find a space.
“I had a really beautiful time growing up playing football. It was my way of expressing myself and finding myself.”