Sunday, 13 March 2011


I am a 47 year old man with two children Molly and Kitty. I have been married and now separated. In the past years I have delivered catalogues, been a telephone engineer, a chauffer, studied equity and index options on the stock market, a football manager, have run my own football academy and I am currently a Fire Fighter in West London. That’s where I am now but for the majority of my life I have been involved in football one way or another.

I have played in all the divisions of the football league. Played at the highest non-league level, played abroad, been a qualified coach and manager.  I have had my fair share of major and semi-major injuries and operations and have had some great lows and some great highs. I never earned bundles of money out of football but I earned a living. I didn’t save any money nor set a pension plan up for my football retirement so now I am finding my way outside of football with hopefully the energy and enthusiasm I had when I was on the inside. 

This is a real football story dedicated to the majority of players who are not household names and earning film star money. This is the truth about football on the inside at all levels. This is about the heartache of rejection and injury. This is about great passion and uncontrollable love. This is about despair and mental torture but also about joy, happiness and relief. This is about taking what football gave me and using it in the real world. Finally, I hope it’s a story that exudes confidence, principles and a healthy rebelness. This is for the LOST BOYS... this is SKD.


Like most footballing kids, I ate, slept and played the game. It seemed that anything there was to kick, you kicked it. From matchboxes to stones and every spare minute seemed wasted if you weren’t thinking about football. My dad was the icon in my life and whatever he said to do I did and whatever he thought, I thought. School and lessons were an interruption between break times when I could really learn about life with a wall and a tennis ball.

Up until the age of 13, I had always played for the school and district and then one day it happened. After one district game at the age of 13, I was approached by a man in a waterproof jacket and flat cap called Fred Ricketts and asked if I wanted to train twice a week after school at an unknown place called WHITE HART LANE. ‘I’ve made it! I’m going to be a professional footballer at a top (old 1st Division) Club’. I needed some new boots, trainers and kit for Tuesday evening.

Tuesday came and being at school was a place to kill time. The bell went at 4pm and I ran to meet my Dad at the school gates where he was parked to take me to North London. Arriving at Spurs through the old iron gates with a giant cockerel on, I remember feeling sick with nerves. Where do I go? Who do I speak to? What are the other boys going to be like? An old gate man with a fag on told me where to go and we walked through some wooden doors under the old West Stand and was showed to the changing rooms. Inside there were about 25-30 lads all changing. The silence was daunting and undressing in front of older boys with my washboard tin ribs and just-turned teen legs was frightening enough without worrying about acne and puberty.

We were split up in to 2 groups with under 15s upstairs in the big ball court and under 14s downstairs in the smaller gym. Robbie Stepney was our coach with the most energy and enthusiasm I have ever seen in football. In the corner there were tennis balls with which we warmed up and learned our technique. After that we paired off and religiously went through passing and control skills followed by keep-ball and finishing off with a game. After we showered and changed we went into a side room and collected travelling expenses from an old boy called Jimmy Joyce. What an insight into pro-football, great training, the quickest 2½ hours of my life and then being paid money for doing so. This was a different world.

After a few weeks, I was good enough to be selected for the under 14s on a Sunday morning and for the next 18 months I played for Spurs and trained at Spurs, ate and slept Spurs and was even good enough to play out of my age group for the under 15s. Everyone seemed happy with my progression and even at the tender age of 13 I knew I was playing really well AND, then one Sunday morning it all changed.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


I came round after the operation and my mouth was so dry I couldn’t talk properly. I had a blinding headache and the feeling of nausea was brewing. I was numb down my left leg and I couldn’t move it. My Dad was sitting next to me and must have been nodding off. I was alone for the first time, I mean I felt empty in the pit of my stomach and mentally insecure. For the first time in 15 years I knew something was terribly wrong and then it all came flooding back. To this day it is as clear in my thoughts as the birth of my children.

It was a crisp January morning at Cheshunt (Spurs Training Ground). Twenty five minutes had passed in the first half and I was in the best run of form of my life - well on my way to signing apprenticeship forms. The ball was slowly running out towards the corner flag and I had put myself between the Centre-Half and the ball. Shielding it at walking pace I felt a nudge in my back and started to lose my balance. As I toppled forward I could feel more and more weight on my back. My body half-twisted and I fell over the top of the ball with the Centre-Half landing on top of me. I heard a snap then a crunch but did not take much notice so I naively stood up slowly and began to run off and then I was shot by a sniper. My left leg gave way and crumbled beneath me and then there was a pain so alien to me that I started to panic. The game immediately stopped and the first person to me was Peter Shreeves (Reserve Team Manager) who reassured me and called the Physio. He put an inflatable splint on my leg not before I noticed that below my knee was pointing in a different direction to normal. I wasn’t moved and an ambulance came on to the pitch to take me to Chase Farm Hospital (Enfield). On arrival I went in to a cubicle and had an injection in my quad to relieve the pain. It wasn’t enough so I had another. After about 10mins there were 4 white coats surrounding me, asking questions and examining my leg. My splint was carefully removed and the horror of my injury greeted me for the first time. This was not my leg. It was only recognisable because I still had on my football kit and I saw my white and blue Admiral Spurs sock ruffled down my shin. My eyes shot to my Dad and he did his best to conceal his fears but even he looked slightly pale. My patella knee-cap was more towards my thigh and my tibia and fibula were at right angles. The nurses washed me down and removed my muddy kit and then a doctor examined me and asked me to lift my leg. At the time I thought that if I could lift my leg I might have a chance of playing next Sunday and proceeded to attempt to achieve the impossible. How sad! but sometimes that naivety is refreshing. The nurses and doctors disappeared with Peter Shreeves and my Dad attempted nervous jokes. By now the shock was wearing off and pain started to kick in. Peter returned with the doctors and it was explained to my Dad that an operation was needed and Spurs were going to fly in their specialist surgeon from Holland in a few hours. Lastly, I remember laying on a trolley with a needle in my hand and being asked to count to ten and getting to three.

On Monday afternoon, Peter Shreeves and the then Spurs Manager, Keith Burkinshaw visited me with a basket of fruit, flowers and some Tottenham books. I felt like a superstar that the Managers would give time to a skinny kid in their busy schedule and make me feel so wanted. I grew ten foot tall in my bed with so much confidence but that confidence couldn’t be used where it mattered and that feeling didn’t return on a football pitch until much later in my career.

I remained in hospital and in traction for 2 weeks and then I was released to go home. My leg wasn’t in plaster but I had a heavy lead back slab running the length of my leg and then covered with layer upon layer of bandaging with my foot free. I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on the floor and I didn’t have any crutches so when I got home I was carried upstairs to my bed. My Mum propped my pillows and brought me my favourite cheese and pickle sandwich on crusty white and a cup of tea and suddenly as I blew the steam off my Typhoo I cottoned on to the fact that I was bed-bound.

Friday, 11 March 2011


My next appointment at the hospital was in 8 weeks time so i sat back and turned my bedroom into a place of self indulgence. Easy to reach books, magazines, remotes were not heard of so a snooker cue came in handy and a table with all my favourite sweets and crisps. Absolute bliss for the first few days and then some questions had to be answered. The most important one being my schooling and in one of the most important years as well. As a fifteen year old who was used to being physically and mentally active it was so difficult to come to terms with a day to day existence in bed where the nagging pain in my leg when the painkillers wore off, in the end became a relief to the boredom of the day. I had homework delivered to the house on a weekly basis but the motivation dried up and I knew I was falling behind.

Six weeks later I was looking forward to getting out of my “prison” with a trip to the hospital. Over the last weeks my strength had gone, wastage was setting in and bed sores on my bum and heels were uncomfortable. I had to be carried down the stairs by my Dad and Uncle George and put length ways into the car. At the hospital I had the slab and bandages removed which gave me a great opportunity to scratch away the dead skin and those of you that have experienced this will know what an euphoric pleasure that is. I had a full length plaster of paris put on but still with no heel which meant I still couldn’t put any weight to the floor. I forgot to mention that when they removed the bandages I was privy for the first time to see my leg once again in its original condition, straight. The only real change was the six inch “S” shaped scar under the knee and a round scar on the patella. The ligaments were being held together with half a dozen oversized staples and I remained unable to lift my sparrow leg in the air. 

        After six months I had my second op to see how the knee was and to remove the staples.

       Over the next eight to nine months I stayed at home which must have been stressful to my family especially when I lost the plot a couple of times and demolished my bedroom. I continued to not take much notice of my school work and all I could think about was my final appointment at the hospital to remove the plaster. Anyway who cared about school when you could do 200 headers against a bedroom wall. 

       Weeks before my final appointment my ankle had swollen and locked and to put a sock on was painful. When I arrived at Chase Farm I was wheeled into the doctor’s office and he cut off the plaster while I explained about my “Hans Krankl”. My leg was just a bone but he was pleased with the healing of the knee and the scar looked clean and healthy. He examined my ankle which was now a problem because of its lack of movement over the year and proceeded to manipulate it up and down and backwoods and forwards. Did I scream with pain and shout you “Fxxxxxx Txxx Doc!” or what, but it was the only way to get some movement back. To this day it still cracks all the time and I get more pain from the poxy ankle than my knee.

          I was led out of the room while the specialist spoke to my dad alone and when they came out I was told that everything was fine and a programme of rehabilitation could take place. In latter years I learnt that some of my growth bone was removed and my injury would not stand up to professional football but because I was so young I had a lot of growing left to do and a better assessment could be made when I was 21. My dad kept that from me but obviously Spurs must have known the truth. That’s the indelible thoughts of injury AND now the real hard work begins.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


When you digress in life you see clearly the great influential experiences and one of mine took place in a rehabilitation centre in Camden.

Once again Spurs arranged my admittance and again Peter Shreeves took me and my dad on my first day to the work house. Peter gave me great praise and confidence in my early days and in contrast took it away as I got older, I think we both changed s people.

I was on crutches as I entered through the automatic doors of the rehab centre at 8 o’clock in the morning. I was checked in and shown around the sweat shop. It was unbelievable, there were paraplegics, quadriplegics, people with stumps everywhere, car accidents, bike accidents, sports injuries, men and women with every ailment, accident and injury you will ever see and it looked to me that I was one of the better off ones. People were on stationary bikes, playing basketball and badminton, running, walking or lifting weights in the gym, upstairs doing woodwork or in the hydra-pool. The place was pumping with people sweating, straining, grunting, groaning, laughing and crying. It was a “gaff” to get fit and recover no matter how big or small your targets were. It was a “gaff” where 1 step for 1 person was just as important as a mile was to another. It was as great an achievement to lift your arm in some cases as it was to lift 50lbs. This was a “gaff” where I knew I was not only going to recover but a place where I was going to achieve great fitness and be inspired by great people, this was SKD!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


My fitness programme was worked out for me and from 8.30am unti 5pm you had certain classes to go to and work exactly the same as school except THIS was an exercise regime. I was in an unbelievable situation where my schooling became irrelevant because I either had the choice of going back to school on crutches and making a very slow recovery or go in to rehab and work for 8 hours to maintain any chance of becoming a professional footballer. There wasn’t a choice! We didn’t even discuss it as a family; as far as everyone was concerned I had to go to rehab to stand any chance of chasing the dream.

This centre was AMAZING, in 2 weeks I was off crutches and walking, all bar limping. I had to learn how to walk all over again through building up my muscles and spending hours in front of a mirror on a treadmill correcting the limp. I didn’t mind this too much because a mirror to a footballer is an essential piece of equipment as we all know. The people there were as a diverse a group of folk as you will ever meet - young and old, fat and thin, rich and poor. Accident and injury knew no bounds or prejudices and I watched and listened and realised that it wasn’t just about recovery - it was about education and better than any learning experience at school. I was in people heaven!

I was 15 nearly 16 and my closest mates there were a 21 year old motorbike accident that injured his spine and achieved 12 steps a day out of his wheelchair and believe me to watch him walk was something else. My other mate was a 40 year old Indian ex-badminton player who lost his arms but still managed to grip a bat in his stump and whoop your arse in a game of table tennis. These were the sort of inspirational people that you fed off to achieve your own goals. The classes were hard work but interesting. Upstairs you had wood work classes where you rode bikes that make a saw go up and down to cut wood where I produced a “rank” chopping board for my mum. Downstairs were two gyms, one for playing all sports and the other for circuit training and the large hydro-pool was for swimming and massage. All my exercises were designed round the building up, strengthening and range of movement for my quads, hamstrings, calves and knees.

After two months full time work at the rehab I wasn’t limping, I was running normally and my legs were as strong as Roberto Carlos's. My knee felt great, the scars had healed nicely and my only apprehension was a fear of the next step back into football. I can only admire and appreciate how hard the staff at Camden worked. The spirit and patience were great qualities and my education in life from them and the other patients has carried me through to today whereby I don’t really suffer from “bad day blues”. Sadly Camden Rehab Centre is no more but holds a very special place in my heart so if anybody knows anyone that worked there or attended “God Bless You”.

The Return to the Lane N17...........................................

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Return to the LANE N17.......

I left Camden and the following week I was back at school and back to training twice a week at Spurs. In the next few months I had my O’Levels to take and the Spurs coaching staff were making decisions on apprenticeships. I was over a year behind with both and I didn’t want to fall between two stalls. What shall I do? I would run the 2 miles home from school as quick as I could so me and my Dad could get up the park and do some ball work and I was back at my beloved Tottenham training on a Tuesday and Thursday evening. At Spurs I wasn’t involved in any games or competitive situations yet, just getting back my technique, fitness and ball skills. My knee felt fine apart from a heavy feeling from the scar tissue. After a few weeks I was told I could join in an 8-a-side in the gym and within the first five minutes I was involved in a fifty-fifty. I went in a bit tentively and my knee jarred, but there was no reaction and what a massive relief I felt. You know when you have that split second doubt between good and bad, similar to when you drop toast and will it or won’t it land butter-side up. I played for about an hour, got a good sweat on and that lovely ‘kiddy’ football feeling of doing something you love returned to me after such a long time.

Time was moving quickly now, my O’Levels had come and gone and I just sat in the exams having done absolutely no revision and even getting a mark deducted for putting my name in the f******  wrong place.  I think I used my injury to fail and anyway football was the REAL passion in my life.

My 1st game back for Spurs was in the South East Counties V West Ham at Cheshunt (The old training ground). Players will tell you that the 1st game back after a long lay-off is a concoction of mixed emotions. The adrenalin pumping through the body with excitement and trepidation is a real “buzz”. You can’t wait for the match to start, you can’t take in a word anybody is saying because you have a thousand thoughts rampaging through your brain and you hope that all the extra training will get you through unscathed. My best position was centre-midfield but they played me on the right to give me a bit more time and space. I managed an hour and was then substituted whereby which time I had played OK, had some good touches but felt absolutely shattered, but I was back and that’s all that mattered.

Weeks passed and I was playing regularly, but my game wasn’t back yet. I was doing alright but not setting the world alight. People seemed to forget how long I had been out and Apprentice decisions were imminent. A player knows instinctively what’s happening to him and I could feel a lonely cold shoulder breezing over me. Management stopped asking how I was feeling and I could understand that full time contracts were being discussed and could they really take a RISK with my injury?

The trouble with a lot of managers is their people skills and rapport with individuals is not good enough and really all players want to know is the truth whether it be good or bad. Players and their Dads were being spoken to about contracts or their release and it’s hard to see that traumatic rejection at such an early age. Lads that were getting apprenticeships were not in my league as schoolboys but time had moved on and I hadn’t. My Dad and not myself was called into the office (this bloody waiting outside THE OFFICE is a bit like that sweaty feeling before you go into the dentist with toothache) and explained the situation and till this day I do not really know what was said except that an agreement was made for me to work with the Ground-staff and train throughout the summer break in the afternoons. I worked with the Ground-staff in the mornings around White Hart Lane helping ‘Chalky’ White with the bowling green pitch, painting the stands and general maintenance of the stadium and in the afternoons I would train in the gym, on the weights or around the track surrounding the hallowed turf. I think Spurs were training me up with other jobs in the event of my leg giving way. My aim was to be the fittest and strongest I had ever been for the new pre-season so at home I was working with an old ‘Charles Atlas Bullworker’, eating raw eggs in milk and drinking ‘Makeson’ stout all in an effort to build up my body to compete at a man’s level. How diet and training has changed now!

Pre-season came along and I knew I had to prove myself. My upper body was transformed and I was super fit. No one could believe my metamorphosis and my confidence was growing. I was training full time and loving it. I did everything an apprentice did but was still really a member of the ground-staff. When they went to college on a Monday to study another job in case they never made it in the game I trained all day with the pro’s and a brilliant coach called Pat Welton (R.I.P).  I never went back to school; I never thought of anything else, it was 100% football.

I was sixteen nearly seventeen and my football was back to its pre injury form. I was a regular in the Spurs Youth Team and had been sub a couple of times for the Reserves. I can’t think of any footballer who has taken this route into the game and still being paid as one of the painters, decorators and pitch mowers of the fantastic ground-staff. A couple of days after my 17th birthday I was asked to see the manager Keith Burkinshaw in his OFFICE (not the dreaded OFFICE again). My heart was in my mouth, I had worked my B####### off and Spurs were going to release me. I couldn’t believe it, F### football, F### Spurs, F### life. I was too old to sign Apprentice Forms, what else was left?????