Jack Price has had to fight for every bit of his career.

From the time, in Wolves Academy, he had to battle at the end of every season to prove that his lack of height should not stop him staying for another year.

From the moment, a decade ago, he finally landed his first team opportunity as a part of the Kenny Jackett revolution which thrillingly blazed a trail to the League One title.

From those days, in the Championship, where he had to challenge for his place all over again, and yet, Wolves always seemed a better side when he was stationed in the engine room.

From the spells he had out of the team, which he struggled to deal with, and, by his own admission, didn’t look after himself in a way which would have helped him get back involved.

And from heading out Across the Pond, at the age of 25, to take on a risky new challenge in Major League Soccer (MLS) with Colorado Rapids.  

Price has always battled.  Alongside his undoubted technical ability and class and composure he has needed a strong and sustained mentality.

This year, more than ever.

In his sixth and ultimately final season with the Rapids, Price suffered a ruptured achilles tendon which ended his season in only his second appearance of the campaign back in March.

It has been a long way back for the hugely popular 30-year-old, still undergoing treatment as part of his recovery.

“It’s been the hardest challenge of my career so far,” he admits, ahead of heading off to his latest physio appointment.

“I haven’t had an injury like this in ten years and it’s been tough.

“It’s not nice being out for so long but I’m close to coming out of the other end now – and that’s when the excitement starts.

“At the beginning of a long-term injury it is very difficult but, as you get towards the end, then you are just really eager to get back out there and make up for lost time.

“That feeling of what it is like to be on a football pitch comes back, and it drives you on to go again.”

Going again is precisely what Price is looking forward to in January.

By the time the transfer window re-opens, he is hoping to be back to full fitness, or at least very close.

In the first instance though, he is reflecting on a memorable pursuit of the American dream, and six largely happy years when he developed impressively both on and off the pitch.

A big step to head out Stateside in his mid-twenties ultimately paid dividends as he made 130 appearances, scored four goals, and provided 35 assists, putting him second in that category in the club’s all-time record books.

He spent four years leading the team as captain, was voted the MVP (Most Valuable Player) four times as well, and was once named in the MLS Team of the Year.

“It’s been an amazing six years,” he reflects.

“I absolutely loved it in Colorado, and it was the best thing for me and my family.

“When you go into a new club, it’s like walking into a new job, and you wonder what it is going to be like.

“We were going into the unknown, but the club and the fans made me feel so welcome, and, as a player, when that happens it’s a weight off your shoulders and you can go out and perform at your best.

“They did a really nice farewell video for me when I left, and the first thing it said was how I felt at home from the moment I got there – and that was so true.

“Everyone was so welcoming to me and my family and it was quite emotional to watch that video back.

“It was also a risk for me to leave Wolves when I did and not many players of my age were heading over to America at that time.

“But it was less of a risk because I knew I was going to play football and I believed that if I got opportunities my football ability would show.”

And show it did.  Those statistics show what an impact Price produced and it was matched by the level of responsibility he grew into by taking the captain’s armband.

By his own admission, he used to feel uncomfortable in talking to the media – it was part of life as a footballer he endured rather than enjoyed.

But now, he speaks with complete confidence and enthusiasm, not to mention total honesty.

In revealing his disappointment at the terms of the contract Colorado offered him to extend his stay, which he felt an unfair reflection on the years of consistency and service delivered, he insists he won’t allow it to cloud the overall positive memories.

Nor will it affect the personal growth of his American stay and the gratitude he feels at the opportunity to broaden his horizons.

“Coming through the Academy at Wolves, I think I was always seen as a bit of a kid to a certain extent, and I probably needed to go somewhere else to really kick on,” he explains.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was tough to leave Wolves, everyone knows how I feel about the club and I had been there a very long time.

“But having had the time I had at Colorado, I now feel very fortunate to have had over a decade as a professional at those two clubs.

“Probably my proudest moment has been leading the team out at DSG Park, I have loved being a captain and am really going to miss that side of it.

“I feel I have always had leadership qualities, I have always been vocal and given 110 per cent on the pitch and the Rapids fans noticed that from early on in my first season and have been behind me all the way.

“I think that was also why Robin Fraser, the manager at the time, gave me the captaincy.

“It was a big role for me because I was following a legend like Tim Howard, and I had never been a captain before.

“I really relished it and enjoyed it, being demanding of the players on the pitch but also praising them as well which is always important.

“It was also about taking ownership and responsibility through the bad times as well as the good, and I was fortunate to share a dressing room with such good people.

“They were so easy to get on with, and while we had our ups and downs and fallouts like in any dressing room, it was never anything personal and the togetherness made it a lot easier to be a captain.”

Captaincy necessitated a strong mentality, and that has always been a quality possessed by Price in abundance.

From those days coming through the Academy, handed confidence at different stages by the likes of John Trollope, Mick Halsall and Steve Weaver, and going on to make 115 appearances in the first team, Price fought his way through.

“I have always taken the approach of trying to prove myself every time I step out onto the pitch,” he explains.

“It’s been about trying to prove myself at whatever level right from those Academy days of people thinking I was too small.

“My mentality has been about playing and showing my ability and that, if you are good enough, it doesn’t matter how tall that you are.

“I have needed that mental strength more than ever with this injury but it comes from that time as a kid, going out every year to prove people wrong.

“I think the last six years have just helped all that, where I have played through little nicks and injuries, and just got on with it.

“I just love playing football, I always want to play football – just get out there, kick a ball about, and enjoy it.

“And then that winning feeling is fantastic, celebrating a result with your team-mates and the coaching staff – there really is nothing better.”

As with many experienced professionals, it has taken many years of ups and downs for Price to progress into the well-rounded and seasoned campaigner that he is now.

Again, by his own admission, especially in his Wolves days, he recalls occasions he didn’t do everything right, especially his reaction to finding himself on the fringes whilst at Molineux.

Any career is about learning, and Price readily admits he has done plenty of that.

“I have made mistakes, and when that happens you have to learn from them,” he acknowledges.

“When I was younger there were times when my attitude could have been better, although not so much attitude in terms of causing trouble or arguing with a coach.

“It was more like how I dealt with disappointment, maybe going out for a drink or two to deal with it instead of focusing on what I could do to get back in the team.

“I remember the manager who first gave me a chance – Kenny Jackett – who always said never get too high and never get too low, and I think that’s the best advice I ever received.

“The highs in football are amazing, but the lows can be horrendous, and it’s about keeping your feet on the ground and being able to get through everything.

“The older you get then you are the one who is giving other players advice, although I can still remember it being the other way around!

“And especially when I became captain, it helped me to have that responsibility because I can’t go telling others to live right off the pitch and then not do it yourself.

“The last few years have played a big part for me in both becoming a better footballer but also a better person.”

Becoming a better footballer was, in Price’s opinion, non-negotiable, because the standard of the MLS has continued to rise.

Clubs are now splashing out far bigger transfer fees, and, whilst in the past it was seen as a curtain call for top quality players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bastian Schweinsteiger, now the cream of the crop is heading Stateside much younger.

Take for example Thiago Almada, the Argentinian who signed for Atlanta United at the start of 2022 and then went on to be part of the squad which won the World Cup.

“The game is growing now, there is more money involved, and there are far more kids playing football that you wouldn’t have seen six or seven years ago,” says Price.

“When I first went over, I thought the standard was comparable to the Championship but I think it has overtaken it now.

“I would say once America has hosted the World Cup in 2026, there is the potential for the MLS to become one of the top five leagues in the world, if it isn’t already.

“They are behind where we are in England but with the money they have, the investment going into making Academies top notch and improving the standards at all levels, there is so much progression and it is only going to get better.”

He leaves a couple of former Wolves players behind at the Rapids in Connor Ronan, who picked up several awards including MVP at the end of his first season in the States, and assistant head coach Neil Emblen, another who is fondly remembered from his playing days across two stints at Molineux.

“Embers – what a top bloke, and someone who still gets so much love from the Wolves fans,” says Price.

“It’s the same with Connor in that we all realise just how great Wolves fans are in following the fortunes of players wherever they end up.

“All three of us still received messages from Wolves fans despite being thousands of miles away – they are the best of the best!

“Connor has had such a great first season, the team struggled a bit but he was definitely one of the bright lights and showed what a fantastic player that he is.

“That’s another big regret for me because having played together at Wolves I was really looking forward to linking up again – but it only lasted ten minutes before I was injured.”

For Ronan, the future looks Colorado burgundy, but for Price, the time was right to come home.

He would never rule out another switch back to the MLS in the future, but, back in Shropshire, is keen to find a fresh challenge slightly less far away if at all possible.

Family life was a delight in Denver, but, at the same time, there is no place like home.

Son Hugo, about to turn four, is already enjoying life at school in Shropshire and wife Lauren is set to give birth to their daughter in the very near future.

Exciting times, and now, almost six years on from his last appearance on British soil, as a 75th minute substitute in an away win at Birmingham, Price is hoping to be back out there.

“It is a busy time but also an exciting one,” he confirms.

“Off the field, we have a little girl coming which will be great especially with being back home.

“Then it’s about completing my recovery and hopefully getting back in action in the New Year.

“Being somewhere reasonably local would be great, and I am hungry to get out there as hopefully I’ve still got plenty more to offer, especially with all the experience I have picked up.

“By January I am hoping to be 100 percent fit and ready to go, and am really looking forward to it.”

As a boyhood Arsenal fan, with so much love for Wolves where he emerged and made his footballing breakthrough, Price will be watching closely as the two lock horns at the Emirates on Saturday.

Hoping that, before too long, he too is back out on a football pitch somewhere, playing a part once again.

The ‘Shropshire Pirlo’ is back home, ready and waiting!