When I was at school, all I
wanted to do was play football and be a professional footballer.
That, and build huge spaceships out of Lego and own the company that
made Action Men. Naturally, back in the heady, drain-pipe jeans
and white toweling socks days of the early 80's this was every boy's
When we played games at
lunch time or after school, we all picked sides and players whom we
would be. Whilst some bizarre lads chose Athletico Bilbao and
other assorted rubbish foreign teams, I was always Tottenham and I was
always Glenn Hoddle. I had the Tottenham shirt, which I always
left hanging out of my shorts in a vain attempt to emulate the great
man; I tried to play like him (though my put-it-on-a-sixpence 50
yard passes were more Carlton Palmer than Hoddle); and I even
tried to fashion for myself the peculiar and grotesque "Hoddle
mullet". My mum put paid to this concept, however, and I
forever sported a short back and sides. Ridiculed at the time by
my long-haired friends, at least these days I can look back at the old
photos of me and not cringe as I hastily explain to people, "Well,
you know, it was the 80's...everyone had bad hair then...."
Though I was never that talented and though I only ever made the Second
XI at school, at that age I could always dream, at least, that one day I
could be a professional player and one day pull on that lilywhite shirt
and run out to the strains of "Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur".
I knew it could never happen, but I had age on my side - I was under 18
by a long chalk. Maybe I would undergo a supernatural conversion
one night and wake up the next day with the ability to pass like Hoddle,
dribble like Villa and tackle like Perryman. Maybe. Age was
certainly on my side. All footballers were grown ups and I was a
kid and my imagined career was still all before me.
Nowadays though, it's different. I had an unsought for and
depressing moment of self-revelation the other day, a sort of Pauline
conversion on the road to Damascus. I was perusing (yet another)
article about Dean Richards and there was his photo - a tough looking,
grown up bloke. And that's when it happened, my candid experience
of "know thyself".....I read his age.....26. Bugger
that. I'm 28 now and it all suddenly became clear, it all dawned
on me in one crushing and horrendous moment - not only would I ever
become a professional player, but I couldn't even imagine it any
more. At 10 years old, I could at least dream of it as I had at
least 9 or 10 years to undergo my magical nocturnal transmutation into
the world's finest, but at 28...? I think not. It's not
often a man suffers such a terrible moment such as this, but I've had
mine. Yes, I'll keep on playing for my indoor side, but no longer
as I run out of defence will I be likening myself to some footballing
great. No, these days, I'll just be Kingy, lurching and jerking
about the pitch in my own inimitable, crappy style...
Ah well. Enough of my disappointment, I'm off to put my slippers
on, walk the dog and then come home to smoke a pipe and fall asleep on
the sofa, dreaming of Anna Ford, every old bloke's fantasy........