Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How my football career was ruined by the FA

You are by now aware, how much I love my football and would have given my right arm to pull on the red jersey of Liverpool or the jersey of any professional team, even Walsall come to think of it. I'd like to share with you my experience of how I nearly became a professional football, only for circumstances to prevail and therefore English football has continued to remain in the lower echolons of International football without a trophy since 1966, the same year I stopped sucking on my dummy and started dribbling a ball. Suffice to say, my Mum did not have the latest in mpeg video technology at the time, so there is no black & white footage other than to say, I was greater than Pele at 3 and would no doubt have delivered that elusive World Cup to her Maj.

Between the ages of 6 to 11, I was dynamite, even if I say so myself. My career at that point, where I played for the local cubs consisted of a run of 4 years where I was unplayable. Top scorer from midfield for 3 of those years and numerious man of the match performances, had me heading for the footballer's lifesytle of baby Bentley's and groupies in nightclub's. To gather a picture of me in my youth, imagine Frank Lampard, but without the belly. When there were matches involving local estates I was forever at the helm, and picked up many a cup winners and runners-up medal's which my Mum say's she can no longer find. Imagine Wayne Rooney's Mother telling the BBC she cannot find Wayne's first football boots or his first hat-trick on dvd. However things changed when I arrived at secondary school. I had arrived with a reputation that I was some kind of child prodigy, well that's what my Uncle's tell me. But I noticed at the first training session, that I did not have what the other players had. My career and dreams of a life in Rio de Janerio were dashed quicker than it takes Pete Dohety to get arrested. What was I to do now? I did not have a great first touch, my heading was weak, along with my stamina and pace. The only good thing I had left was that I was two footed and can bark orders like John Terry. I tried for three years to get into my school team without any joy until one day someone had to attend Saturday church and I got a run out.

I was nervous and I believe this contributed to my lack - lustre performance, but the manager had faith and kept me in the team until the end of the season. The following year, we merged with the girl's school across the road and there lay my football career, trying to play mack-daddy with the girls from the 5th form who would tease me by asking if I knew how to undo a bra.

My friends used to play for a local team, so I played on Sunday mornings in the freezing cold at Tooting Bec or Hackney Marshes, when you had trouble finding your own team never mind the dressing rooms. However between the ages of 14 - 17 I lost interest in football, but still thought I could make it for the next world cup in 1982, when Kevin Keegan was injured and missed the chance against Spain, which would have put England in to the Semi Final's. I was fit at the time and would have buried that chance with my eyes closed.

It wasn't until I started working for a company out in Maidenhead, aged 24, that I got to capture the real talent deep inside. I had stopped playing for close to 6 years, a few 5-a-sides and the odd run out for the local pub team, but I became disullionshed with manager's not being able to work out that I played in the 'hole' or to play me as the holding midfielder, before Claude Makelele was even sperm, and my teams were forever playing me out of position, as either a wing-back or Centre-Half, as I was able to read the game better than Alan Hansen, and could organise from defence. I suppose it's a similar role to what Fabio Cannavarro operates for Italy when the won the world cup in 2006, but when you are use to controlling the game like Ruud Guillit, then operating at the back did not help me to break into the England world cup squad.

Anyway, to cut a longer story even shorter there was a planned weekend away to Ireland for the company I was now working for, where there would be two football matches, as we were taking that many people we could afford to field two teams. As I had only just joined the organisation, any position would suit me and as we flew to Dublin, the talk was not so much of tactics, but how many pints of Guinesses could be consumed in a 48 hour period. As I am from the darker skin establishment and have no idea what you do with Guiness I also knew I could not ask for a Dragon or Super Malt, so managed to take my own bottles of vimto and Baldwin's special, in order to blend in.

On Saturday was the first match to which I was selected to start up front. I had not played up front, since I knocked in 4 goals past Kennington Boys under 8, back in 1975. The game in Ireland was being taped for prosperity not SKY SPORTS1 and would be reviewed by all in the team club house, later that night. Up to this point I had never seen myself on video, but I had grown up over the years, still had talent and this was against men with beer belly, balding hair in their 50's and one guy was blind in one eye. Surely this was my moment. I had grown up watching Liverpool and at this time, Ian Rush was the 'Don. So I decided to be Ian Rush that day, hassle defenders and take no prisoners. And that is precisley what I did. All game, all day and finished with two classy goals and an assist, before I departed, not so much to a round of applause, but because one of the supporters on the touchline, was sparking up a big philly and as I could smell it, it was my queue to depart and give way to someone else.

Later that evening, more than two hundred people (it was a big weekend) had gathered to watch the game, and again on video I was unplayable. The dummies, flicks, drag backs were all there in colour. My new orange and white boots, skipped across the pitch as though I were Van Basten. The range of passing was akin to Glenn Hoddle and when we got back from the Ireland trip, I was summoned to the football manager and told in no uncertain terms I would be playing for the works team, the following season up front. Before I had time to enquire about signing on fees and whether I would need an agent, I was given the season schedule and told that training is on Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm.

The following season, my first for the work's team and my best ever season, where the team went on to win the league and a cup competition, I ended up 2nd top scorer with 27 goals in 20 matches, closely behind my strike partner who duly got signed by Slough Town (fe real). There were no letters from the FA asking if I wanted to take my coaching badges or be on standby for Paul Ince for the next World Cup. There were no reporters enquiring whether I deserved to be player of the season and whether I would be seeking a move abroad. Five trophies in one year and no phone call from the F.A. This left me totally disullusioned with British football and I decided to embark on a new career in the golfing world.

Read next month's blog, about how I nearly beat Tiger Woods and why I would have won the US Masters in my rookie season on tour.


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