Sanchez Payne: Leeds United benchwarmer who underwent career transformation to become media star

Sanchez Payne was released by Leeds United in 2013 but has since made a name for himself in radio and television.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 2:33 pm

When asked where he’d like to live when he was older, 7-year-old Sanchez Payne suggested making a home for himself in Hollywood.

Why? So he could “be a star”.

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Leeds-born Payne is one of a group of individuals whose lives are being tracked as part of the Up Millennium Generation television series.

A spin-off from the original Up series, the show interviews a group of people from different backgrounds across the country at seven year intervals.

This year, the BBC caught up with Payne, now aged 28, and discovered that his career has taken a dramatic turn.

Once an aspiring footballer, Payne was progressing at the Leeds United academy when the Up cameras spoke to him aged 14.

Sanchez Payne. Pic: Press Release for BBC Radio Bradford

“‘Watching TV, watching Match of the day, watching England I can see myself in that centre-mid position,” he told the BBC, “I can just see it now so I’m just waiting for that to come true.”

But, as is the case for so many ambitious young players, Payne fell short of his dreams.

Following one bench appearance at Elland Road in September 2012, Payne was released by Leeds United at the age of 20 before suffering a series of injuries and setbacks at lower-league sides in and around his home city.

Having enjoyed a fleeting taste of the roar of the home crowd, Payne was initially dejected as the realisation dawned that professional football would not be a sustainable career for him.

Leeds United 2012/2013. Pic: Tony Marshall/Getty

Payne then travelled to Spain to work as a VIP host at a hotel in Ibiza, where he participated in BBC show Ibiza Dreams, which documented the lives of ten British people trying to launch careers on the famous party island.

The experience opened doors for the ex-footballer. Networking with artists and musicians handed him opportunities he had not imagined for himself and "put him on track for world domination,” he said.

Payne claims that making appearances as a Leeds United player gave him a taste for the life he now leads as a host and compere. Today, the 28-year-old has a show on BBC Radio Leeds and is part of the team behind the Leeds 2023 year of culture initiative.

Though he hasn’t made it to Hollywood yet, Payne has found a way to superstardom in Chapeltown, where he still lives with his Mum.

Brian McDermott didn't see Sanchez Payne in his plans for Leeds United. Pic: Tony Marshall/Getty

“‘I’m now doing things that I never would have thought of in my wildest dreams,” Payne said.

“I’m loving it.”

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