THE boards are quiet at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the dimmed lights overhead casting an eerie glow around the cavernous space.

Standing track centre, the Scottish rider John Paul gazes around the rows of empty seats. It's a homecoming of sorts, although perhaps not the one he imagined.

The story wasn't meant to go quite like this. The 2011 junior world sprint and double European junior champion, Paul has been widely tipped within cycling circles as one of Scotland's leading hopes for the Commonwealth Games and a future successor to six-time Olympic champion Hoy.

But earlier this year his dream was abruptly derailed when the rider from Lybster, Caithness, found himself dropped from the British Cycling Academy Programme in Manchester after failing to reach performance targets, losing his funding and facing an uncertain future. With the Commonwealth Games looming large, Paul had to pack up the life he knew, hand back his bike, bid farewell to the world-class coaching and attempt to carve a new path to Glasgow 2014.

Having first returned to Wantage, Oxfordshire, where his family now live, as of last month Paul has been based in Glasgow, training under the tutelage of Scottish Cycling sprint coach Kevin Stewart.

When we meet, his dejection is palpable, although bubbling just beneath the surface lies the beginnings of a new-found optimism. He speaks candidly of hard lessons learned and a tumultuous emotional journey.

"It has been hard to maintain focus," he said. "When I was dropped from the programme in April, I lost my funding. That's been tough because I have no money coming in. There's the question of whether to get a job because then training becomes even more difficult."

At present Paul exists on a shoestring budget, relying heavily on financial help from his parents to tide him over. He was turned down for sportscotland funding last month. "That was a blow and disappointing," he said. "But what can I do? I just have to get on with it. I don't have any sponsors. The Braveheart Cycling Fund give me support but not enough to live off."

Paul, who rides for City of Edinburgh RC, is the reigning Scottish national sprint and keirin champion. He caught the eye of British Cycling at U14 level and was accepted on to the Olympic Talent Team programme in 2007. Paul progressed to the Olympic Development Programme two years later and joined the Olympic Academy in 2011. Hoy has described Paul as "an incredibly talented kid".

After being released by British Cycling, Paul initially made a twice weekly 170-mile round trip from his parents home in Oxfordshire to the Wales National Velodrome in Newport. He bought himself a second-hand road bike on eBay, while an uncle stepped in to get him one for the track.

"Suddenly everything was ad-hoc and I had to coach myself," he said. "I went from structured three-hour training alongside the likes of Sir Chris Hoy to basically rocking up and doing public drop-in sessions.

"You get down to the track and there's just a couple of old guys at a session, there is no one pushing you on. That can make it easier to have a bit longer between efforts or take your foot off the gas. But it gave me fire in the belly to prove to myself that I can do this."

Paul is sanguine when asked whether his dismissal came as a surprise. "After winning the junior world and European titles in 2011, I had high hopes," he said. "But 2012 was poor. I had a flat year, plateaued, and didn't really improve at all. My target for the season was 10.3sec [for a flying 200m]. I did 10.4sec in February and hoped to improve. Sadly I was taken off the programme and didn't get the chance."

But he admitted he could often be his own worst enemy when it came to over training. "That's the basis of why I was released from the programme," he said. "I was doing too much which led to me feeling fatigued, then it became a vicious circle. When I was tired, I wasn't going so well on the track and would think: 'I've got to train even harder'.

"I've learned the hard way. It's something I've taken on board and started to train smarter as opposed to doing more. I do feel it's worked. I think perhaps I was just a bit young and impatient.

"Being a junior world champ I thought I'd get up there and, boom, it would happen. But everyone progresses in their own way. I wanted it a little too much."

Paul will return to Manchester for the British National Track Championships in a fortnight with his focus firmly on gaining the Glasgow 2014 qualification standard for the sprint events.

He surmises the biggest lesson has been balance. "Before, it was 100% cycling all the time and I found it hard to switch off," he said.

"But now I've realised: 'You know what? I'm not on the GB programme now, but it's not the end of the world.' I'm more relaxed. Tomorrow is always another day."