Former FC Buffalo standout Sam Byles is coming off his first professional season with Sorrento FC in Australia and he’s quite proud of his first go at the pro level.
“My first season as a Sorrento FC player was a valuable experience,” Byles said. “Playing overseas was always on the agenda for me as I grew older and I have now managed to play both in the U.S. and now Australia.”
Byles joined the Australian-side Sorrento FC in Perth for the 2016/2017 NPL Western Australia season, and finished a tough season with a fourth-place finish. The side’s highlight of the season came in the FFA Cup, where they were the first West NPL squad to ever make the Round of 16.
Before Byles signed on with Sorrento FC, the English-born defender spent the 2016 season with FC Buffalo of the NPSL. While Byles had to adjust to playing on the right wing in his time with FCB, he still achieved his goal of playing in the United States and enjoyed his chance.
“My experience with the NPSL last year was a great learning curve for me,” Byles said. “(Learning a new position) took a while to get accustomed to but I was just excited to get out on the field when required and help the team out.”
Byles proved to be game-changing sub twice during the 2016 NPSL season, entering the game in memorable comebacks on the road at Indy Eleven NPSL and Erie Commodores. Both finished 3-3, and Byles assisted on Ian McGrath's equalizer in the Indy draw.
It’s quite clear that Byles added a great deal to FC Buffalo’s squad in the 2016 season. FC Buffalo co-owner Nick Mendola was happy to have him in the team.
“We were very fortunate to have Sam recommended to us for the summer of 2016,” Mendola said. “He was a terrific teammate who played with a professional's work ethic and a skill set indicative of his pedigree.”
Byles came to FC Buffalo on the recommendation of Matt Brown, who was the University at Buffalo’s goalkeepers coach at the time. Brown now serves as a volunteer assistant at Elon University.
“Sam is a very technically gifted player who brought a lot of professionalism to the team,” Brown said. “He comes from a very good upbringing and this shows through his understanding of game. He was very supportive to his teammates.”
Once Byles joined Sorrento FC, he immediately felt comfortable with the new group.
“It's usually an uncomfortable experience when you start out playing for a new team, however, I felt at home right away with this team,” Byles said. “The president, coaching staff, and players were very welcoming and I knew this was a good place to be playing my football.”
Byles actually spent time with the Arsenal FC’s academy before going to Southampton Solent University. Now that Byles has experience going abroad to play the beautiful game, he’s now planning on returning home to England, and while he still plans on playing soccer, he’s looking to make a bigger impact in business.
“My aspiration now is to start and to finish my Master’s degree at the University of Nottingham,” Byles said. “Once my degree has ended I want to start my own business alongside playing football in the lower leagues of England.”
Mendola has confidence in Byles’ future as a player and a businessman.
“He's such a bright guy that it wouldn't surprise me if he winds up working at a Fortune 500 company or on a name team back home in England,” Mendola said.
Regardless of where his career(s) in soccer or business take him next, Byles is thankful for the opportunities soccer has already given him.
“Moving to Australia for the season, I was very apprehensive. Stepping into the unknown, living with relatives I had never met before,” Byles said. “But I am very grateful for the experience of playing over there.”
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling and Margaret Heath of Hickling Images