Back in 2006 I was coming up to my GCSE’s and probably the most defining time in my life.
I’d just been let go by Southampton FC, had trialled several other pro clubs and decided that I’d break not only my finger but my frickin ankle too!!
And I was a goalkeeper ?
Like seriously WTF.
It’s normally Natalie who injures me and this time?
It was just me. Me doing things I shouldn’t be doing…
At that time I only had my heart set on being a footballer.
That’s all I knew.
That all I ever dreamed of becoming.
Playing day in, day out training and earning a good living keeping myself fit and in a ‘work environment’ I loved.
Fast forward to my GCSEs and I had a call from Jez, the director of Cambridge United FC (who were in the conference at the time).
He’s heard about me and wanted to me to trial with them.
He didn’t even though I had broken my ankle!
But I wanted a club so desperately.
And if I didn’t gain a contract I’d be seen as a failure and everyone I knew would be right.
‘He’s never gonna make it’ they used to say.
Truth is, I hadn’t played in around 4 months.
Not trained, kicked a ball or nothing.
So what did I do?
Jumped at the idea of going away with the Under 18s, a team that I’d never met before, in a tournament 2 years above my age group in between my GCSEs.
Not saying I wasn’t scared. I was tricking petrified.
This literally felt my last chance to earn a contract.
It felt like the last 10 years worth of effort came down to just a matter of days.
Most parents would say no.
Your studies come first, but not my parents.
They understood how much it meant to me.
They’d given up a lot themselves.
I could say sacrificed but they enjoyed it.
So off I went, up to Cambridge 2 days before I was supposedly meant to be playing in this tournament against the likes of Steau Bucharest, FC Rotterdam, Sparta Prague, to see if I could kick a ball without wincing.
Yup. But I made it through and my ankle held up in the session.
So there I was, ‘kinda match fit’, on my way to Lille for this ‘prestigious tournament’ with guys a few years older than me to earn a contract with a club I hadn’t really heard much about.
You know what? I actually brought my study books as I had a GCSE Geography exam the exact morning I was coming back. (I had to leave early to get to my exam)
I managed 3 games relatively comfortably. I didn’t look out of place, I wasn’t overawed even though I was ‘kinda’ match fit.
In fact, I done ok. Not amazing but ok.
You know, considering…
And so Monday comes. My parents drove up to meet me on the Sunday, watch a few games and take me back for the exam. I didn’t have much time but I had enough to get straight to school pretty much and sit the exam.
Was wicked telling everyone what my weekend was about…
No one believed me by the way!
Anyways. On the way back I couldn’t bloody believe it!!
I’d only gone and LEFT MY BLOODY PASSPORT with the players.
And so I hid. Literally. My dad threw his coat over me and I hide in between the back seats so I wouldn’t get spotted in the passport control.
If I missed my geography exam that’s it.
Game over. My favourite subject. No way was I failing that!!
And I knew that if I didn’t get a footie contract, then geography was the next best thing.
I HAD to get it right.
We were so lucky, we made it back in time, somehow, with an illegal passenger riding in the back.
A few days passed and I hadn’t heard much.
I thought I’d failed myself and let my family down.
I thought I’d have to get a horrible 9-5 job until…
I was playing footie in the back of our old house against the battered fence when the phone rang.
It was Jez…
I shook like mad and answered the phone with sweaty palms.
I still remember that convo.
Jez was impressed, said a few things and OFFERED ME THE CONTRACT after a matter of 3 games!!
Talk about taking a chance ???
I remember dropping the phone and jumping on my dad -> his back was ok then. Haha.
Now look, I could have easily said no, I had a broken ankle and finger (that’s still messed up) for christ’s sake and I hadn’t played in 4 months.
I was rusty as hell going into that tournament and playing against top level players two years older than me.
I mean they had full beards and I’d just developed my first pubes. It was the summer my voice dropped!
And I had a flipping stutter too which didn’t help me settling in with my new teammates ?
But I didn’t back down, I faced adversity head on and gave it my best shot.
Because that’s all you can ask for right?
Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.
It ain’t that straight path you hope it is, putting one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes? It beats you down and sees how many times you’re willing to get up.
I could have flopped my Geography. I mean I didn’t study AT ALL as I just immersed myself in the tournament but I walked out with an A*.
How frickin’ awesome is that!!
I mean in the space of a few days I’d done some crazy s**t to earn a contract (and get decent grades) when life seemed like it had run out of luck.
So if you’re sat here, still reading, know you have the power to choose any outcome you desire if you give it 110% of everything you have.
Whether you think you can or you can’t, your right. Your actions will determine the outcome but trust in yourself.
Give yourself an undeniable belief that everything will work out and you’ll be ok.
Because you’re always going to be ok.
You know that, deep down.