HE may only be 19 years old but Callum Coulter already has a pretty inspirational story to tell.

Any young footballer needs their fair share of determination, in order to become a professional footballer.

But in Coulter’s case, the promising young Colchester United goalkeeper has already had to overcome more obstacles than most to follow his dream of succeeding in the game.

When he became one of four academy players to sign their first development contracts with the U’s last month, it marked the latest step of progression for a young man who has already had to overcome considerable adversity in life.

Coulter was plotting his route to become a professional goalkeeper at Crystal Palace when at the age of 13, his life changed dramatically when he suffered serious injuries in a horrific road accident.

As a result, he fractured his skull in 12 different places, was left partially blind in his left eye and 50 per cent deaf in his right ear.

Understandably, the incident was a hugely traumatic experience for the youngster.

“It was horrible; I’d feel alone most times,” he said.

“As a 13 year-old boy growing up is hard enough but to add that to the mix, it changes your whole perspective on life.

“It was a difficult time after that – I took a full year out of football.

“My development was halted for a year so effectively, I’m a year behind my fellow players.

“It was tough coming back from it and it was also tough telling the coaches at previous clubs, because I felt it was used as an excuse to offload me and that was disheartening.

“They kind of pushed me away and that was tough, because I couldn’t do anything about it.

“Now I feel like Colchester judge me on how I’m doing now rather than my past, so that’s perfect.”

Coulter ended up leaving Palace and joined Colchester, where he has been impressing as a full-time apprentice in their academy over the past two years.

“When I first came to Colchester, it was like a breath of fresh air and one of the best things I could have done,” said Coulter.

“I’ve loved my time at Colchester, so far.

“The club have really given me the chances and my opportunity to really show what I’ve got.

“I struggled at my previous club Crystal Palace to really show how good I was but Colchester really opened the door for me and have really given me what I feel like I deserve.”

Coulter has been worked closely with U’s academy goalkeeper coach Paul Smith over the past two years and says the former Nottingham Forest and Brentford custodian has been a big influence on him.

He said: “Paul has been massive in my development.

“He was the one who welcomed me in and he’s been there by my side pretty much every training session and every game, helping me through.

“I have a lot of respect for Paul.

“He’s a really good mentor and he knows what he’s talking about because he’s been there and he’s done it, at a high level.”

Coulter says he has also benefited from the expertise of U’s senior duo Dean Gerken and Ethan Ross, particularly over recent months.

“They’re brilliant,” he said.

“I was lucky enough to train with Dean and Ethan for a couple of months before the season got suspended.

“Dean is really, really experienced in what he does and he tries to help the younger players, so he’s class.

“Ethan is the same and he can kind of relate to me because he’s a similar age to me and he’s been through what I’ve been through, at his other clubs.

“They’ve got a great bond together and that makes things easier.”

Coulter has also benefited from time on loan at several non-league clubs including Maldon and Tiptree, Brantham Athletic and Isthmian League premier side Bowers and Pitsea.

“It was good to go out on loan to Bowers and Pitsea, especially at a level like that,” said Coulter, who hails from Farnborough.

“I thought I did well and held my ground.

“I was only there for a short period of time and it’s the life of a footballer – you’re never going to get it perfect.

“Those three or four games that I played there will set me up for if I go out on loan again or play in the first team.”

Coulter is now looking forward to continuing his progress with Colchester next season – and is determined to use the close season to improve.

He said: “It’s great to have clarity on where I am, next year.

“It’s been a bit tricky with the coronavirus situation but luckily, I’ve proved my worth.

“With the way that the club is set up and run by the chairman, they want to get young players through.

“I feel like it’s a great place for me and other young players to be, because they’re always looking for new, up and coming talent and it’s going to be a great opportunity, this year.

“It’s a massive relief that I’ve got the deal.

“I’ll be using this time to improve so that when I come back, I’m in the best shape I can be.

“I don’t want to waste this time over the summer – I want to come back better and be the best of the best.

“I’ll be using this time to improve so that when I come back, I can really give the gaffer something to think about.”

It is clear that Coulter is strong minded in his desire to make it as a professional, especially after having to overcome such adversity.

He added: “What happened has definitely made me more determined to be a success.

“It really has given me that drive to really make it as a professional.”