Having the dream of becoming a professional footballer, or going as far in the game as you possibly can, is a dream shared by many.

It is a long journey to reach the top and incredibly competitive while you are on your way. The sheer number of players who have the same goal as you is huge., so it therefore takes a lot of time, effort, sacrifice and devotion to get there. There is this huge amount of effort needed to keep improving and furthering your game, and sometimes you may feel like you are getting closer and closer. But unfortunately knock backs happen; opinions come into play and you have to keep faith in your ability while persevering and developing your game.

One of the key things that any player needs to be doing, especially those who have the ambitions of reaching the top end of the game, is practise.

Practise on your own.

Usually most players will train with their club once or twice a week and play a fixture at the weekend, potentially one during the week as well in place of a training session. This training provides great development, especially in the team setting. However, the top players have all worked incredibly hard on their own games individually.

In team sessions it can be hard for the coach to focus on individual development very regularly. The session may not be long enough and there may be some important tactical sessions that need to take place.

So if you want to improve certain aspects of your game, then working alone will help you develop significantly.

I remember always looking forward to working on my finishing during training, but we couldn’t do it every week. The only solution was for me to go up to the local playing fields, with a bag of balls and practise by myself. If I’d waited to improve my finishing only at the team training sessions, then it wouldn’t have been as good as it became. The individual practice was key to me becoming a better player.

And that individual practice should never be underestimated.

Becoming a high level player requires that you put a lot of work in on your own time, if you want to.

It’s hard, but a vital part of development. There are so many stories of the top players and how they stayed behind at training to work on their game. In some cases they had to be dragged off the pitch.

Now, you don’t necessarily want to be training so much that it’s causing you injuries but have an idea of what you want to work on and where you want to get to, then go out there and practise it.

With consistent individual training you will see your game developing, not instantly, but you will definitely begin to notice a difference.

Perhaps the best example is Cristiano Ronaldo. When he first arrived at Manchester United he was an insanely talented individual, but he had a lot to learn. He was probably more style over substance, performing great tricks and skills that excited the fans, but rarely put himself in the position to get more goals and assists. As he learned and developed, he began to realise that he needed to change and become more productive, focusing on having an end product through scoring more goals and getting more assists.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the ultimate worker.

This would take time but knowing this gave Ronaldo something to focus on and there are countless reports from top players who would all say how dedicated Ronaldo was, being one of the first to arrive at training, and last to leave.

His desire to be the best was huge and the individual training that he put in gave him a huge opportunity to succeed at his goals.

Ronaldo wouldn’t be the same player if he hadn’t committed to training on his own. It gave him a chance to work specifically on areas of his game every day, that he knew he couldn’t do in the team session.

Ronaldo is a hugely gifted player with bags of natural talent, but the natural talent isn’t enough. Top, top players all have a huge work ethic that drives them on to the success they have. And quite regularly they work harder than the majority of all other players.

What you as a player must remember is that there is always someone out there wanting to work harder than you.

And can you catch them?

You may be fantastically gifted, but football is so competitive that there will also be someone else with a similar talent level. If that player is working harder than you and putting more effort in to their development during their own time then, eventually, they will be a better player.

Training on your own allows you to be selfish, working exclusively on yourself - an opportunity that you can’t have in a team training session.

So analyse how you perform in matches and team sessions. Realise what you need to work on and then go out there and look to make it better while on your own.

Football is so competitive and you have to always remember that there are players out there who are training hard while on their own. These players may not be of the level that you are currently at, but if they are taking more time to practise, more time to improve their game than you are, they will catch up, and potentially overtake you.

So, if you’re not training on your own, you’re missing out.

You will see improvements and it will definitely take your game to the next level.