Family helped me progress as a footballer - Leon Best

Newcastle United striker Leon Best has said the influence of his family helped him to focus on his ambition of becoming a professional footballer.

Best, 25, grew up in the Nottingham district of St Ann's, an area with a reputation for gangs and gun crime, but went on to achieve his goal.

"I sit down and think what could have happened if it wasn't for my mum's good guidance," Best told BBC Late Kick Off.

"I chose the way I wanted to go, and kept it football all the way."

The Republic of Ireland international added: "I did go down the wrong path at certain times, but I was too young for anything bad to come out of it.

"When I got to the 13-14 mark I realised it wasn't the right path for me, I slowly came away from it.

"I could see what my mum was going through for me and doing for me, so I didn't want to upset her.

"When I'd come home and tell I'd scored here or there it put a smile on her face, and that was the main thing for me."

Some of Best's friends from childhood ended up in prison, and he has remained in contact with those close to his roots.

"I send letters and pictures," he said. "They're still my friends no matter what they've done.

"I'm very proud of where I'm from.

"I've had good times with them, and they're good people."

After undergoing trials at Notts County in his home city, Best eventually earned a deal at then-Premier League side Southampton.

He never really settled on the South Coast, and was sent out on loan to Bournemouth, Sheffield Wednesday and most prolifically Yeovil Town, before completing a return to the midlands with Coventry in 2007.

With the Sky Blues, Best enjoyed his first taste of regular first-team football, leading to a switch to Newcastle in January 2010.

It was against the Magpies that he made his top flight debut while at Southampton - although it would take him another six years to return to the Premier League.

"I worked with Steve Wigley [at Southampton] and he always told me I'd have to go down the leagues to understand football and to come back," Best said.

"That's exactly what happened in my career.

"I think with my upbringing I didn't have a father figure, so it was a matter of I made decisions myself.

"When I came into an environment where people were telling me what to do, sometimes I found it hard because sometimes I didn't think it was right.

"It took a while for that to kick in but it's a matter of maturity and respect."

Leon Best was featured on BBC Late Kick Off in the North East and Cumbria.